HSE: We’re ready for flu outbreak

Healthcare services were as prepared as they could be for a flu outbreak, HSE director general, Tony O’Brien, has said.

“Our community healthcare organisations, and our hospital groups, have been planning for this winter since before the summer,” he said.

If a flu epidemic broke out, all of the resources available to the health service would be directed at it.

Mr O’Brien could not offer a guarantee that the trolley situation would not be worse this winter than it was last winter.

“It would be foolish, given the number of variables, for me to offer you that type of guarantee,” he said on RTÉ radio yesterday.

“What I can say is that those responsible for the delivery of healthcare services are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that they were as prepared as they can be.”

Mr O’Brien said he was concerned that the discussion on the flu virus in Australia would interfere with the critical message for at-risk groups to get vaccinated.

“There is never a 100% match between the vaccine we are using and the actual flu that arrives here, because the flu is a dynamic virus,” he said.

Nevertheless, the vaccine offered could be between 50% and 60% effective in preventing hospitalisation among elderly persons, and 80% effective in preventing death.

“So we must not allow any of this discussion to deflect from the very important message to at-risk groups to get vaccinated.”

Two people have been hospitalised this month, and two outbreaks have occurred in residential facilities, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

However, there were no confirmed flu cases admitted to critical care units and, as was usual for this time of year, flu levels remain low.

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