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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

What's the total ICU bed capacity for the latest Covid-19 surge?

The HSE has said it would, of course, continue to care for patients beyond capacity but the level of care would not be the same.

HSE CEO PAUL Reid yesterday warned the health service is now “under real threat” as we had towards Covid-19 hospitalisation rates last seen at the peak of the first wave.

There are 921 patients in hospital with Covid-19 today, with 75 people in intensive care. Hospital numbers peaked at 881 in mid-April last year.

Liam Woods, HSE national director of acute operations, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he has never seen “a threat at this scale growing this quickly. And so that’s why we’re responding in the way we are”.

Despite plans announced in September last year to bring the number of critical care beds to 321, it has not increased significantly. 

Last year, before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were 225 ICU beds in the public system. Temporary surge capacity in the earlier part of the pandemic brought this number to 354.

These were temporary beds, however, such as high dependency unit beds, preoperative and postoperative theatre beds which were brought back into service when non-Covid services resumed.

In September, when the HSE’s Winter Plan was unveiled, permanent capacity was at 280, with plans for an additional 17 ICU beds.

According to the HSE there are 287 fully-staffed public ICU beds. Yesterday 255 of the adult critical care beds were occupied – including 75 by Covid-19 patients – and 20 paediatric critical care beds were occupied. 

The HSE said the number of available beds on a daily basis may differ subject to staffing and Covid-related absenteeism is a factor in this, 

Yesterday Liam Woods said surge plans allow for this to grow to around 350 with a “reasonable standard of normal ICU care provision”.

After this point, he said hospitals would continue to care for patients but “the level of care is not the same”. He said significant training had taken place, but short-term training cannot replace permanent clinical staff running ICU capacity.

The HSE is also currently in talks with private hospitals, with an agreement expected that would provide for the use of around 25% of private ICU capacity.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has warned that unless people strictly follow public health advice, there could soon be up to 400 people in ICU beds. 

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