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Under Pressure

HSE preparing for influx of Covid patients and warns that up to 2,000 could be hospitalised

There are currently 513 in hospitals with the disease.

THERE IS SIGNIFICANT and growing pressure being placed on Ireland’s hospital system as Covid rates across the nation surge, according to the HSE. 

Director of acute hospitals at the HSE, Liam Woods, this morning described how the increased attendance at ICU is putting an increased strain on the system. 

There are currently 513 Covid patients in hospital with 97 in ICU.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Woods said he expects to see another increase in the number of people attending hospital with Covid. 

He said that the health system is using data modelling preparing for the worst-case scenario of 2,000 people in hospital and over 200 in ICU in a bid to shield itself as much as it can from the onslaught of cases.

Woods explained that it is hoped that numbers will not go that high but that the service needs to prepare for every potential outcome.

“The numbers of cases in the community will suggest that within hospitals it will go further because we’re aware of this staging dynamic, there is a lag effect between the community incidence of what’s going on in our hospitals.

“So, it’s an increasing pressure that we need to respond to and are taking measures to try and work as best we can both in the delivery of normal services and I think it’s important to recognise that right now hospitals are running beyond the 2019 levels.”

At a cabinet sub-committee meeting yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly outlined the case for hospitals. The numbers in ICU have jumped 22% in the past week, while the numbers in hospital have risen 41% in the last fortnight.

Woods said that more elective procedures will likely be cancelled in the coming weeks but that a deal stuck with private hospitals in March 2020 might allow some of these procedures to go ahead. 

He urged the 350,000 or so people who have not yet been fully vaccinated to get their shots to reduce the impact of the disease on the patients themselves but also on the health system as a whole. 

“I think we simply need to keep providing [the vaccination] service. The target would be to reduce [the number of unvaccinated] that very significantly, but we need people to continue to attend and be vaccinated as it is the best line of defence,” he added.

“We are very alert to the fact that we still have significant admissions to hospital of people who are not vaccinated.”  

Despite Covid-19 case and hospitalisation figures, Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan said that he does not expect restrictions to be re-introduced.

“I don’t believe they will be,” he told reporters on the way into Cabinet this morning.

“We discussed that last night [at a Cabinet Covid sub-committee meeting] but neither Dr Tony Holohan or anyone else in the room felt that that would be the appropriate response.”

The Green Party leader urged the public to follow public health guidelines and rules around hygiene, and for individuals and sectors to take responsibility to mitigate against the spread of the virus.

“The virus is out there at scale, and for all our interests it’s best to put simple measures in place, but I don’t think there’ll be a return of restrictions,” he added.

Contains reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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