Winter health outlook ‘very grim’ as HSE plan slammed as 'inadequate'

Winter health outlook ‘very grim’ as HSE plan slammed as 'inadequate'

There were 622 Covid patients in hospital yesterday, the highest figure since February 25, and there were 117 patients in ICUs, the highest since March 1.

The situation in the health service is “very, very grim” the HSE chief operations officer has warned, as the number of Covid patients in hospital reaches a level last seen in February.

An audit of paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) services finds staff shortages and high occupancy levels are also putting pressure on these valuable beds.

Yesterday, 4,570 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed. There were 622 Covid patients in hospital, the highest figure since February 25, and there were 117 patients in ICUs, the highest since March 1.

There were also 283 patients requiring ventilation on wards, with only 94 general beds now available, said HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor.

“We are experiencing significant pressure across the country,” she said.

“The incidence of Covid is rising in all of our catchment areas.

“People are sicker and they need to come to hospital. It is a very, very grim situation.”

Ms O’Connor said there has been a 25% rise in admissions in the last week, and ICU admissions are up 41%.

Of the 117 patients with the virus in hospitals, 81 of these require ventilation.

HSE data for Sunday show: University Hospital Limerick had 43 Covid-patients; Cork University Hospital 40; University Hospital Waterford 21, and University Hospital Kerry, 12.

HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry said intensive care units are under pressure, especially in the Dublin area, with elective operations being cancelled and patients transferred between hospitals.

“We are seeing an overheated health care system at the moment,” Dr Henry told Newstalk.

Over 3,800 staff were absent due to Covid-19 last week, up over 1,000 on two weeks ago.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly unveiled the HSE’s winter plan yesterday, which will see €77m spent mainly on boosting primary supports.

The winter plan was released against the backdrop of the worsening Covid situation and outlines how the HSE proposes to manage the challenges before it.

Ir says €77m in funding will be used to open extra beds, more community diagnostics, and to secure extra private hospital capacity.

Another 143 beds are promised by the end of this year and 62 more by next March.

More home support hours are also promised.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) welcomes the publication of the winter plan, but insisted that further action is required.

INMO deputy general secretary-designate Edward Mathews, said: “We need urgent action to use all available bed capacity in private hospitals to divert appropriate care from our acute hospitals.

“Our acute hospitals are not just full, they are overcrowded, so surge capacity from the private sector to alleviate the pressure in hospitals across the country is imperative.

“The INMO will be seeking an urgent meeting with the chief executive of the HSE and his senior officials with regard to implementing this plan.”

The president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), Dr Ina Kelly, has described the Winter Plan as “inadequate”.

Dr Kelly said a lot of the investment included in the Winter Plan had already been in the planning stages.

The Plan was “not the answer to what is facing us in the coming months”, she added.

There is a shortage of staff from a medical point of view, this manpower issue urgently needed to be addressed. Staff were exhausted and were very overworked. There were 700 vacant consultant posts, she pointed out.

“€77million seems a small addition given the demands on the health service, it’s small when dealing with an issue of this magnitude.”

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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