Intensive care staff in West Cork may soon have to 'ration' care among those who have the best chance of survival.
As Ireland registers the highest proportion of Covid-19 cases in the world, the health system is being put under increased pressure.
As the Irish Examiner reports, Dr Brian Carey, a consultant physician at Bantry General Hospital, has issued a warning to GPs and other medical staff in the Bantry area, saying that the situation is changing rapidly, and they may have to make difficult decisions to treat patients in ICU who are the most likely to survive.
He wrote to GPs and other medical staff to warn of the "extreme pressures” in the hospital, which is in the middle of an outbreak on the wards.
“We strongly advise admission avoidance for all patients unless absolutely necessary,” he told staff in a communiqué.
The warning comes as health officials said up to 2,500 patients could require hospitalisation by the middle of the month, and after it emerged that Ireland had the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the world last week, after 45,700 cases were recorded.
Last night, a further 4,929 cases of the virus were confirmed by health officials, who painted a bleak picture of the presence of the virus in the community.
Dr Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer, said data shows that socialising returned to an almost pre-pandemic level in December, contributing to the current spike.
Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team's Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, told a briefing that one in 76 of the entire population has been notified as Covid-positive in the last fortnight.
Almost one-quarter of all of Ireland's hospitalisations since the pandemic began came in the last week, with the health service creaking under pressure as ICU beds are in limited supply.
Prof Nolan said forecasts indicate that 2,200-2,500 patients may need hospitalisation by the middle of the month, with ICU numbers ranging between 200 and 400.
Despite this, Dr Michael Power, HSE clinical lead for intensive care, said private hospitals have not yet been asked to supply ICU staff to public hospitals. However, he clarified, 1,300 ICU-trained staff working in other areas in the HSE have been asked to return to ICU.