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Hospital outbreaks: 161 staff in Limerick out of work due to Covid-19

The HSE also confirmed there are 77 staff unavailable for work in Naas, either due to a positive result or because they are a close contact of a confirmed case.

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THE HSE HAS said three of the country’s acute hospitals are under “significant pressure” due to Covid-19 outbreaks resulting in staff shortages, the closure of wards and the step-back of elective care.

In Limerick, there are 161 staff out of work today either due to a positive test or because they are a close contact of a confirmed case. The majority of these staff are from University Hospital Limerick and the HSE is expecting these numbers to increase as all staff are now being tested.

There are also 77 staff unavailable for work today at Naas General Hospital and there is a significant outbreak at Letterkenny Hospital.

At the HSE’s weekly Covid-19 update, CEO Paul Reid said hospitals are “losing a lot of staff on shifts”.

Reid said it has led to a knock-in effect on wards being out of action, with five wards in University Hospital Limerick closed due to staff shortages. He said some hospitals have had to step back or cease elective care and some medical and surgical wards have had to be closed.

“In one case [Naas General] it’s probably back to where we were in April in terms of the hospital just dealing with critical and urgent care,” Reid said.

“The reason I say all of this is to express how fragile it always is and as long as the virus is in our community we are at high risk in our healthcare systems. And it can change very quickly. These hospitals today are under very, very significant pressure.”

He said there is a concern about the numbers and trends in Donegal, which hasn’t seen the same level of decline in transmission as other parts of the country.

“We saw in the early phases in October the pressure point on our three border hospitals – particularly Cavan and Letterkenny – were quite significant and Letterkenny hasn’t really recovered since then, it’s still seeing the impact of the high level of transmission in Donegal,” Reid said.

He confirmed that there is a procedure in place whereby a healthcare worker who is a close contact can return to work after just five days of isolation if all other resourcing options have been exhausted and they are needed in the hospital. This does not include those who have had a positive test or anyone who is symptomatic.

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Reid said that while transmission numbers in the community are showing clear signs of coming down across the country, hospital numbers are stabilising but not falling.

He said the health service is not seeing the kind of reduction in hospitalisations and ICU admissions of Covid-19 patients that it would have liked to see in recent weeks. Today there are 287 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, with 39 of those in ICU.

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