Over 4.3 million Covid swabs done in Ireland, HSE chief confirms

Over 4.3 million Covid swabs done in Ireland, HSE chief confirms

More than 4.3 million swabs for Covid-19 have been processed by the health service, the head of the HSE has confirmed. 

More than 4.3 million swabs for Covid-19 have been processed by the health service, the head of the HSE has confirmed. 

Paul Reid addressed the annual general meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation and praised doctors for how they have adapted to continued changes throughout the pandemic.

He referred to a rollercoaster week for the vaccine rollout with the pause in deliveries of Johnson & Johnson vaccines in Europe and the promise of increased supply from Pfizer, as well as the changes in use for the AstraZeneca jab.

“We will adjust the programme again, we will revise it again. We will put together a revised plan again but we will adjust with the agility and support of the IMO and GP practices across the country," he said. 

Mr Reid particularly noted the contribution of GPs and their teams as “phenomenal”. 

They have now vaccinated almost all of the over-70s and are working with younger people now in the Group 4 category on the priority list.

In a message pre-recorded, he said 4.3 million swabs and tests for Covid-19 were done with support from community teams, and medical scientists.

Mr Reid further committed to following through on recruitment plans for hospitals and public health set out in the HSE’s strategy and annual plans for this year.

He said this will increase ICU capacity nationally, and also increase the public health doctors’ reach.

Earlier, health minister Stephen Donnelly has vowed to implement a suite of changes to the health service, saying the Irish public owed a huge debt of gratitude to frontline medics. 

Mr Donnelly addressed the annual general meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation on Saturday, speaking by video link to the virtual meeting.

“We all owe you (doctors) a debt of gratitude … the IMO members have stepped up to the plate in difficult circumstances," he said. 

He said further recruitment of consultants is expected this year, following the 200 that were recruited last year.

The medical internship programme will be expanded, he said, which will enable hospital teams to care for more patients. 

This will also benefit non-EU doctors working in Ireland who have limited access to further training.

A survey presented to the AGM showed that up to 15% of doctors in training are considering emigrating to work elsewhere. 

It also revealed that seven in ten doctors are “at high risk of burnout.” 

Mr Donnelly said: “As Minister for Health I want doctors to stay in the Irish health service, and those who have emigrated to return home.” 

This will happen, he said, by improving patient access through “major investment”.

“This includes the most ambitious health care budget and reform plan in living memory," he said.

The Minister also said he was “delighted” that agreement has been now reached to give public health doctors the same status as consultants. 

This was just announced this week, following a 20-year campaign by the doctors and the IMO.

He praised hospitals for keeping the numbers of patients waiting on trolleys for a bed in a hospital low, despite the pressures on the system.

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