Surge capacity may be triggered in hospitals this winter, Paul Reid says

ireland
Surge Capacity May Be Triggered In Hospitals This Winter, Paul Reid Says Surge Capacity May Be Triggered In Hospitals This Winter, Paul Reid Says
Paul Reid said surge capacity measures in hospitals may be triggered if predictions for 150 people in intensive care are met. Photo: PA
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A recent surge in Covid infections is a “rain check” for the country, HSE chief Paul Reid has warned.

The increase comes as winter approaches and a “range of factors are really working against” the health service at the moment, he said.

Along with the high number of Covid cases which are “likely to rise”, there are also high numbers of people needing treatment for non-Covid conditions.

Mr Reid said that “surge capacity” measures in hospitals may be triggered if predictions for 150 people in intensive care are met, impacting other areas of the healthcare system.

While the number of patients in hospital with Covid came down to 437 last night, with 88 in intensive care, Mr Reid said “that will grow over the coming weekend and most likely over the coming weeks.”

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“If you look at the modelling and projections from Nphet [National Public Health Emergency Team], they are forecasting potentially 1,000 people in hospital, and 150 people in ICU, which really doesn’t look off the wall in terms of the trends we are seeing at the moment,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Reid cautioned that surge capacity was “not a magic switch” that can be pressed to deal with rising Covid admissions, but involved redeploying significant numbers of staff away from other care as well as closing wards.

“It would ultimately [cripple other areas of the health service] if we get there,” he said, but he insisted the public “can turn this around over the coming weeks” by returning to basic public health measures.

Mr Reid acknowledged Covid-related pressures on the health service – with 1,800 staff off – was already leading to cancellations of surgeries in University Hospital Galway and University Hospital Limerick.

But he said the level of vaccinations in society should prevent a return to a blanket cancellation on all non-Covid, non-emergency care, as happened during a wave of infections at the start of the year.

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“Nobody expects, based on the level of protections we now have in society, to get where we were in January, where we had over 2,000 people in hospital, and 220 people in ICU,” he said.

While the HSE welcomed the further easing of restrictions, Mr Reid said people need to continue to wear masks, social distance and clean hands to reduce transmission.

“If you are unvaccinated, you are at much higher risk, you put your family, your friends and society at higher risk,” he added.

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