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Hospitalisations reach 817 as HSE CEO says health service 'under real threat'

There are 817 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of this morning.

The number of Covid-19 patients hospitalised since the start of the pandemic.
The number of Covid-19 patients hospitalised since the start of the pandemic.
Image: Covid-19 Data Hub

Updated Jan 5th 2021, 3:11 PM

THE HEALTH SERVICE is “under real threat” as Covid-19 hospitalisations near their peak reached during the first wave of the pandemic, the CEO of the HSE has said. 

Figures this morning showed that 817 people are hospitalised with Covid-19 and 73 are in ICU.

Hospitalisations peaked at 881 in mid-April. 

“Our health service is under real threat now. We’re heading to the peak of hospitalisations as in the 1st Wave,” Paul Reid said on Twitter. 

“Primary & GP services are under relentless strain. Swabbing centres have positivity rates from 40 to 55%.”

Earlier today, the HSE national director of acute operations Liam Woods said the HSE faces pressures every year, but in his experience, none have been to the scale of the current Covid-19 situation. 

“Normally, it would be what would be known as trolley pressures and indeed flu, and the incidence of flu,” Woods said on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“There is basically no flu of any significant level, or at all, recorded through the Virus Reference Laboratory at the moment, and trolley levels are historically low but a very poor indicator.

No, in the time I’m working in the acute operations area which is six years within the HSE, I haven’t seen a threat at this scale growing this quickly. And so that’s why we’re responding in the way we are.

There are 817 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of 8am this morning. Latest ICU figures show there are 73 Covid-19 patients in intensive care.

74 hospital admissions took place in the past 24 hours and 67 people were discharged from hospital. 

Woods said there are 287 fully-staffed public ICU beds. 

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“We can, and the surge plans allow, for that to grow to around 350 with a reasonable standard of normal ICU care provision,” he said.

“Of course, hospitals would continue to care for patients beyond that number but the level of care is not the same, and we need to be realistic about that.

There has been significant training done, but I think we need to recognise there’s no amount of short-term training that replaces having permanent clinical staff in place running ICU capacity.

He said there is cooperation from private hospitals in terms of response to “the collective threat”.

“It’s as concerning to private hospitals as it is to the public system. I think all frontline workers and frontline care provision is threatened when we see this scale of virus in the community.” 

Speaking today, HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor said there are currently 3,000 healthcare staff and 750 nursing home staff out of work due to Covid-19 or being close contacts. 

“This is something that’s a huge concern to us,” she said, adding that staffing levels could further be impacted if schools remain closed beyond 11 January.

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