Paul Reid warns of 'unthinkable' consequences as hospitals move into crisis footing

Paul Reid Warns Of 'Unthinkable' Consequences As Hospitals Move Into Crisis Footing Paul Reid Warns Of 'Unthinkable' Consequences As Hospitals Move Into Crisis Footing
In a letter to hospitals, Paul Reid said 'the entire health system, both hospitals and community healthcare, are now under very serious pressure'. Photo: PA
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Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid has warned of “unthinkable” consequences of hospital capacity becoming exhausted amid the latest surge of Covid-19 cases.

As reported in The Irish Times, hospital managers have been told to identify extra intensive care (ICU) capacity to cope with an expected increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions over the next two weeks.

This comes as the State reported a further 4,650 cases of Covid-19 on Thursday.

Speaking on both Newstalk Breakfast and RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Reid said that the situation in the country’s large hospitals had become “quite precarious” and that for the next 14 days the focus will be on urgent care.

According to Mr Reid, in January, just 10 per cent of Covid patients were in ICU, that level is now 20 per cent.


Mr Reid said the situation was very difficult and the HSE had introduced a range of actions to mitigate pressure such as utilising private hospitals for urgent care, cancer and cardiology treatments.

The number of private beds being accessed weekly by the HSE had risen from 1,000 to around 2,800 to 3,000 bed days per week.

Mr Reid also said the HSE was also examining what surge capacity could be drawn upon to create extra ICU beds from the private hospitals.

The extra capacity from private hospitals would provide “some relief”, but the primary focus of the larger (model four) hospitals would be on urgent care, he said.

Hospitals would have to make their own judgements and decisions on a site by site basis.

Serious pressure

In a letter to hospitals, Mr Reid warned that “the entire health system, both hospitals and community healthcare, are now under very serious pressure”.

“If the disease continues to spread as it has in the past two weeks, we face the prospect of any remaining capacity being insufficient to meet anticipated demand,” Mr Reid said.

“Clinicians in ICU inform us that the system is already facing increasing difficulties in meeting the needs of patients who require specialist high-dependency care. The consequences of such an occurrence, although unthinkable, are also well-understood by each of you.”

At a media briefing, Mr Reid also warned of “significant” curtailment at hospitals as staff would need to be moved to assist with Covid-19 related hospital admissions.

As a result, it is expected that the level of physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy provided next month is likely to be half of what it was last December.

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Speaking on radio on Friday morning, Mr Reid defended the Irish health system saying that even the best funded health services across Europe were under pressure at present because of the latest Covid wave.

He acknowledged that Ireland did not rank well among OECD countries for ICU beds, but he said that the number had increased by 26 percent in the past year.

Increasing ICU beds was not just about providing the bed, he explained, it entailed staff to support it and each ICU bed required seven highly trained nurses, and it was difficult to recruit worldwide during a pandemic.

- Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke

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