Emergency measures must be introduced to allow hospitals to cope amid chronic overcrowding and surging Covid-19 cases, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.
570 patients are without a bed in Irish hospitals on Monday, according to the INMO’s trolley watch, while there are 1,308 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the hospital system.
Covid-19 hospitalisations are continuing to trend upwards, with a rise of 133 cases over the last 24-hour period. This includes 49 people being treated in intensive care for the disease – the same number as Sunday.
Amid the twin pressures, the INMO has called for the HSE “to declare the current overcrowding situation in our hospitals as an emergency and impose all necessary assistances and restrictions in order to allow hospitals to cope.”
The INMO has said that restrictions on elective care should remain in place until at least Easter.
“We have been ringing the alarm on this situation for far too long. We are not in a space in which our health service can cope with 570 patients on trolleys coupled with such high numbers of patients in our hospitals with Covid,” said INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha urged the Government to revisit its decision on mask wearing in indoor and crowded settings.
“There is a clear link between reduced transmission and mask wearing. Removing the mask requirement in congregated settings, particularly with poor ventilation, is clearly having a detrimental impact in our hospitals.”
The INMO said 7,093 patients have been without a bed in Irish hospitals since the mask requirement was dropped on February 28th, leaving the nurses and midwives tackling overcrowding along with Covid transmission "burnt out and exhausted".
“Air hygiene in hospitals is poor, Covid is an airborne pathogen and despite all the evidence the HSE has attached very little urgency to the very real need for the introduction of hospital-wide air filtration and measurement systems,” said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.
“The HSE must now offer a direction to all hospital groups to cancel elective procedures and prioritise emergency care.”
It comes as Bantry General Hospital said visiting restrictions remain in place due to increased infection control measures, with visiting allowed on compassionate grounds only.
All elective surgery has been cancelled, though outpatient appointments and radiology are still running. “The situation will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and any changes will be advised,” the hospital said in a statement.