Cancelling elective procedures a 'last resort' for hospitals amid rising Covid-19 cases

Cancelling Elective Procedures A 'Last Resort' For Hospitals Amid Rising Covid-19 Cases
There were 1,338 patients in hospital with Covid at 8pm on Wednesday night – an increase of 29 per cent over the past seven days. Photo: PA Images
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Vivienne Clarke

“It’s the last resort for us” the HSE’s chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said of a HSE recommendation to hospitals to cancel elective procedures as Covid cases rise and more staff are absent due to Covid.

There were 1,338 patients in hospital with Covid at 8pm on Wednesday night – an increase of 29 per cent over the past seven days, she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.


“A lot of (hospital) beds are being taken up with Covid,” she added.

In University Kerry Hospital one third of beds are occupied with Covid patients, which was a real cause for concern.

Half of the patients with Covid had been admitted with other conditions and when tested were found to have the virus, she explained. But that did not make a difference as they were still infectious and had to be admitted to a Covid ward which put “significant demand” on hospitals.

There were 5,200 health service staff absent from work at present because of Covid which meant that in some hospitals entire teams were absent and procedures were being cancelled.


The HSE had written to all hospitals on Wednesday, she said, about the necessity to focus on critical work such as cancer care and emergency departments. This would mean the cancellation of elective procedures as the numbers attending emergency departments could not be controlled.

“This really is a capacity challenge. It is a real concern for us today.”

Ms O’Connor said that she had never known so many people with Covid. “We have to get through the next few weeks and hope that the numbers improve.”

There was no option but to cancel elective procedures. The HSE will telephone patients to let them know if their procedure is going to be cancelled, she said.


“It’s the last resort for us. It has been one serious situation after another, none of us wants to cancel procedures.

“We will do everything to get back to full service.”

Mandatory mask wearing

The assistant general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, Tom O’Connor has repeated a call by the union for a return of mandatory mask wearing on public transport.

Mr O’Connor told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the union had contacted the Taoiseach on January 20th on the issue and their concerns were growing as the number of cases of Covid-19 had increased in recent days.

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Its members had no choice about using public transport, commuters could decide whether to take it or not, he said, but staff could not as they had to go to work if they wanted to get paid.

Staff absences due to Covid were the same as the “societal norm” which was five to ten per cent, Mr O’Connor responded when asked about staffing levels.

Only 20 per cent of commuters are wearing masks on public transport, he said. Some drivers were still wearing masks even though they were not mandatory.

Ventilation remained an issue on public transport. While there were signs on Dublin Bus requesting that windows be left open, the issue was not policed and windows could not be opened on trains and intercity coaches, he warned.

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