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Do hospitals in Ireland have enough ICU beds to combat COVID and winter illness?

A total of 33,444 COVID-19 cases have so far been confirmed in Ireland with 1792 deaths. About 24,000 people have left the hospital after recovering from the pandemic.

However, 94 people are currently being treated for the virus in hospitals across the country. Of these, 19 patients are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) which is causing concern.

Covid cases in Ireland are increasing significantly every day. Especially in the capital city. There has been a sharp increase in the number of patients in Dublin over the past few weeks.

While the number of cases are lower in other counties, there has been an increase in the number of patients in Cork and Limerick over the past few days. The health department is concerned about this.

Health workers are worried that the number of ICU beds in the hospitals across the country will not be able to cope with the onset of winter sickness, even as the Covid crisis persists.

Daily figures indicates that Ireland is heading for the imminent second Covid wave. If so, hospital officials said the number of existing ICU beds will not be enough. Needless to say, if it is accompanied by winter illnesses.

On August 26, only four people were treated for the virus in the ICUs. But since the end of August, the number of patients in ICUs has been steadily increasing.

When the pandemic began in Ireland at the end of March, the ICU capacity was increased by a joint venture with 20 private hospitals through a €100 million contract.

There are currently 278 ICU beds in the Republic, according to HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Colm Henry said.

HSE’s National Adult Critical Care Report, published in September 2019, cites 19 ICU beds that have become inactive due to “HSE employment pause.”

At the outset of the pandemic, critical care specialists told the government that the short-term solution to re-hiring staff from other sectors was not appropriate in the long run.

The critical care specialists at the time called on then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to rapidly increase the capacity of the ICU as other emergency health services had to be restarted amidst epidemics.

Intensive care beds are not the solution to the spread of Covid-19, Dr. Henry said. He added that the only way to prevent the spread of the virus was to limit contacts.

He said a registered nurse to become an intensive care nurse needs at least six months of training. An average of 5.6 nurses are needed to operate an ICU bed, he stated.

Dr. Henry also pointed out that reducing the number of people in need of critical care for Covid-19 was the best way to help reduce the impact on the health service.

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