The INMO said the reliance on volunteers' ambulances this week should not have happened.

Mayo hospital staff face 'extraordinary and overwhelming' conditions as Covid cases mount

The INMO said face mask mandates need to be reintroduced.

STAFF AT MAYO University Hospital are working under “some of the most challenging conditions they have ever faced” in recent days following a spike in admissions, according to the INMO.

The union for nurses and midwives said that ambulances an “extraordinary set of circumstances” developed as the hospital had to rely on a voluntary group to provide ambulances for patients.

It is calling for mask wearing to be mandated as soon as possible to prevent similar scenes happening.

Yesterday, the HSE reported an additional 19,866 cases of Covid-19. There were 1,466 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of whom 55 were in ICU.   

Anne Burke, INMO official, told RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon that there were “no provisions for infection prevention and control” where there were over 20 patients in a department.

“They described a situation where the ambulances were waiting for three hours to offload patients and they also confirmed that a voluntary and charitable organisation was responsible for transferring patients out of Mayo University Hospital to other facilities.”

Thursday and Friday saw staff and patients faced with “absolute chaos”, while Burke added that “if it’s dangerous for our members, then it won’t be safe for patients”.

She said it was extraordinary that the Order of Malta had to assist the HSE to transfer patients.

“It’s certainly our members experience that it is normally within the remit of the HSE patient transport services to transport patients who are discharged from the hospital, either to step down facilities or to private nursing homes.”

The HSE told The Journal that MUH had support from the Order of Malta late on Thursday to assist in the transfer of a small number of patients to one of its units nearby.

“This was to free up some beds in the acute hospital to support emergency admissions,” a spokesperson said. 

On Friday, the HSE warned that its Emergency Department was under significant pressure with attendances of 130 per day during the week.

It had also seen a “significant increase” in Covid-19 positive admissions and attendances, while also dealing with “high volumes” of non-Covid patients.

There were 73 patients with COVID-19 being treated in the hospital yesterday while three wards were impacted by the outbreaks.

This had a significant impact on available bed capacity and as a result patients in the Emergency Department experienced significant delays waiting for a bed to become available on a ward, the HSE said. 

There were 16 patients on trolleys on Friday while the hospital took the decision to postpone elective procedures. 

“The hospital acknowledges that these delays are very difficult for patients and their families and apologises for the inconvenience and distress these delays cause,” the spokesperson added.

Appearing on the same programme, Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke said the issue of mandating face masks can only be provided by public health authorities.

“They’re monitoring the epidemiological situation in our country. They have to make the determination in terms of proportionality and risk and they will do that if they feel we need to have to bring back mandated masks,” the Fine TD said.

“The government is very clear in terms of its advice. Everyone in healthcare settings shouldn’t be wearing a mask that is very clear in terms of advisory from government.”

Mairead Farrell of Sinn Féin said public health advice needs to listen to frontline workers and that her party would support whatever guidance officials provide.

The Galway West TD added: “I don’t think we can ignore the fact that our that our hospitals have been completely overcrowded coming into the pandemic and that the government has failed to tackle that issue, two years post the onset of this pandemic.”

People Before Profit/Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett said masks and antigen tests should be made free to help ease the situation.

He added that he is not in favour of criminalising of the non-wearing of masks and instead believes there needs to be a return to widespread public health messages across media and other platforms. 

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