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'It's not really true' that increasing ICU beds will make Covid situation better, HSE CEO says

Health officials yesterday confirmed 1,631 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

HSE chief Paul Reid
HSE chief Paul Reid
Image: Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

HSE CHIEF PAUL Reid has said “it’s not really true” that if ICU bed capacity is increased that the Covid-19 situation will be better.

Health officials yesterday confirmed 1,631 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland. 

As of 8am yesterday morning, there were 503 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 101 are in ICU.

NPHET also confirmed there had been 67 deaths notified to them in the past week, bringing Ireland’s total to 5,436. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said in a press briefing yesterday afternoon that 14 of the 67 deaths announced today happened in the past week. 

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Reid said hospital figures will “most likely grow” over the coming weeks. 

Reid said there’s “significant pressure” on hospitals at the moment, not just from Covid-19, but also RSV and early indicators of flu. 

“Inevitably with Covid, it’s here with us for some time. There will be hospitalisations, there will sadly be ICU [admissions], and even more sadly there will be mortalities,” he said. 

Reid said there has been “much debate if we just increase ICU beds it will be better … but that’s not really true”. 

“There’s a level to which you can increase your ICU capacity and have that constrained by Covid,” he said. 

“Any one number of Covid has a disproportionate impact on hospitals. When we say 500 people in hospital, the impact is significantly more than 500 people in hospital … we end up having to close some wards and isolate some individuals,” he added. 

Speaking to Newtalk’s Pat Kenny this morning, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the Government doesn’t have a “red line” number at which restrictions would have to be reintroduced.

Speaking at the NPHET press briefing yesterday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said “of course” there is a need for more ICU beds. 

However, he added: “But if our response to this pandemic was to build enough ICU beds and enough mortuary space to cope with the severe effects of this infection, I don’t think we would be serving the public well in terms of the advice and guidance we’re giving when the measures that people can take to protect themselves in many situations are relatively straightforward.” 

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Reid said the HSE hasn’t had to halt elective care across the board during the current surge of Covid-19 infections, but said several individual hospitals across the country have had to do so. 

“What we’re aiming to do as we face into this winter is continue to the extent we can elective care … and deal with some of the non-Covid issues we’re seeing coming through,” he said.

“We do have to take stock of the benefits we’ve seen from the vaccination programme.”

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