A number of hospitals have ceased or cut back elective care due to pressure created by high levels of Covid cases and respiratory illnesses, the chief of the health service said on Saturday.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said hospitals are facing huge demands with emergency care cases also going up, as rising numbers of people present for delayed care for Covid.
Pressure on hospitals was forcing a number “to take decisions to cease elective care for some points of time – maybe not completely” he said, according to The Irish Times.
“We are beginning to see the pressure on the resources that is required to address Covid impact on non-Covid care, particularly elective care. A range of elective procedures are being cancelled,” he said.
The hospitals affected included Limerick, Navan, Galway, Wexford and Cork, Mr Reid said. He added that children’s hospitals have also had to cut elective procedures.
In one example, the rising number of critical Covid cases has forced University Hospital Galway to turn its cardiothoracic ICU into a Covid ICU – resulting in some elective surgeries in cardiac care and very high-risk surgeries being deferred.
Deaths under 25
Mr Reid warned the surge in Covid cases was likely to make the coming winter one of the most difficult for the health service in many years, with 93 people currently in ICU with Covid "a serious concern".
“That is 93 out of 296 beds at the moment.” He said 57 per cent of the people in ICU have not been fully vaccinated.
“Talking to consultants in intensive care they are seeing younger unvaccinated people in the 30 to 40 age group and sadly some deaths under the age of 25.”
He issued an urgent call to those who are unvaccinated to present for their jabs.
“We really want to stress that this is a serious illness. You do have a higher level of protection if you are vaccinated,” he told Saturday with Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio 1.
“I guess my call to everybody is that we are in a difficult period but this can be turned around quickly and positively.”
Mr Reid said the HSE was working with private hospitals to secure extra capacity.
“We are roughly 1,100 beds per week using private bed capacity. We had just finalised a set of actions to address the rising numbers of waiting lists. We are still very anxious to do that,” he said.
The pressure on elective care comes at a time when waiting lists for people waiting be treated or assessed by a consultant have risen to 907,617, according to the latest data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
On Saturday, the Department of Health confirmed a further 2,427 cases of Covid-19 in the State. As of 8am on Saturday, there were 449 patients in hospital with coronavirus.