A leading intensive care consultant has warned that there are not enough ICU beds in the country’s hospitals in the event of an outbreak of the coronavirus in Ireland.
Dr Tom Ryan of St James’ Hospital in Dublin, told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show that it was recognised 10 years ago that the number of ICU beds should have been doubled.
“We have only half the ICU beds needed, but no action was taken. The current ICU stock is outdated and there are poor isolation facilities.
“Even if there was a small number of cases (of coronavirus) that would present a challenge as there is no capacity in the system,” he added.
Dr Ryan pointed out that in other countries the death rate has been 1% to 2% while between 5% and 6% of those infected could require an ICU bed.
He said that ideally the system should run at 80% bed capacity, but in Ireland it is 96%. “There is no lee way to deal with additional critical patients.”
Dr Cillian De Gascun, head of the National Virus Reference Lab in UCD said that a small number of cases would be “manageable”, but acknowledged that there is not the spare capacity to deal “with an outbreak of this nature.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan is advising anyone contemplating travel to Italy to keep up to date on developments as the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) convenes an emergency meeting this afternoon.