The National Crisis Management Team is to visit hospitals and community settings around the country over the coming weeks. Alamy Stock Photo
winter surge

HSE warns winter viruses will put hospitals under more pressure 'than has ever been seen'

It forecases that over 900 patients will be in hospital with flu in the first week in January

THE HSE HAS said preparations are underway for the “highest pressure on the State’s health service that has ever been seen” due to the surge in winter virus infections.

It comes as the Executive has expressed concern that it expects to see over 900 patients in hospital with flu in the first week in January, while a higher number of hospitalisations have occurred than had been anticipated in its “more pessimistic projections”. 

With those numbers expected to continue to rise rapidly in the coming few weeks, it has established a National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) to oversee the health service for the surge.

This group, composed of senior health service leadership including representatives of hospital groups and community healthcare organisations, has met twice this week and intends to operate throughout the Christmas period.

Yesterday, the Chief Medical Officer Prof Breda Smyth urged the public to stay at home if they develop Covid-19 or flu-like symptoms in the run-up to Christmas Day, as Covid-19 cases began to mount.

As of 8am today, there were 656 people in hospital with Covid-19, 26 of whom are confirmed cases in ICU.

There are approximately 1,200 people currently hospitalised with respiratory conditions.

“This surge in respiratory illnesses will seriously impact our hospitals and Emergency Departments, and will place primary care services such as GP and GP out-of-hours services under further pressure,” the HSE warned, while its chief executive similarly warned of the demand that is set to hit the health service.

“It is now looking increasingly likely that we will see the demand for health services rising well above anything we have seen before,” Stephen Mulvany said in a statement released this evening.

“It is therefore critical that we continue to prepare to the maximum level possible for the projected further surge in demand for services in late December and early January – over and above the current high level of demand.

“We are working to ensure that every available resource is mobilised and utilised to respond to the needs of our patients who are seeking urgent and emergency care.”

Mulvaney urged all who are eligible for and due to be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

“Our services around the country have made and are implementing plans to address the forthcoming pressure,” he added. “The role of the NCMT will be to give them support and to provide national overview and action when appropriate.”

Mulvaney said that over the coming period the HSE’s senior leaders will visit hospitals and other healthcare sites around the country “to see and understand the situation at first hand and to offer support.”

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