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14 Aug 2022

'Extremely worrying' - INMO warns of staggering rise in Covid hospitalisations

'Extremely worrying' - INMO warns of staggering rise in Covid hospitalisations

'Extremely worrying' - INMO warns of staggering rise in Covid hospitalisations

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has warned of an almost 350% rise in Covid hospitalisations. 

In a statement, the INMO called for additional public health measures due to the impact rising Covid cases are having on Irish hospitals. 

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and HSE, 849 people in hospitals across Ireland have tested positive for Covid as of Tuesday morning. 

INMO President, Karen McGowan said, "As a nurse in an extremely busy emergency department where Covid hospitalisations are quite high, I can say with confidence that the pressure that all nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers are under at the moment is unsustainable.

"The rate at which we are seeing infections rise in our hospitals is extremely worrying. From the 29th of May 2022 to 4th July 2022, we have seen Covid hospitalisations increase from 198 to 885, a 347% increase." 

She continued: "The INMO Executive today have taken the decision to call on the interim Chief Medical Officer and the HSE's Chief Clinical Officer to advise Government and the HSE on additional measures that can be taken to alleviate the pressure that is on the health system. 

"These include the reintroduction of immediate Covid screening upon arrival of patients to EDs, strengthening advice around mask wearing, a second booster for healthcare workers and improved ventilation in healthcare settings." 

According to Ms McGowan, Covid is "seriously impacting" rosters. 

She said, "...As the HSE no longer publish the levels of healthcare workers infected with Covid by profession this makes it impossible to know the exact scale of the problem. We cannot adequately plan for what Covid might look like in our hospitals at what is traditionally the busiest period of the year (November, December, January) if we don’t know the scale of the problem now during an abnormally busy time." 

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, also commented on the issue. 

She said, "We have just emerged from the worst June for hospital overcrowding on record coupled with sharp increases in Covid cases in our hospitals. It is a wholly unsafe environment for our members to operate in at the moment which is having implications for patient safety. 

"Since the removal of the requirement to wear masks, we have seen over 39,861* people on trolleys in our hospitals while Covid cases are on the rise once again. While we understand that legislation is currently being prepared to legally underpin advice on mask-wearing, we cannot wait for the Oireachtas to pass legislation in the Autumn. Unfortunately, Covid does not pay heed to the legislative agenda. 

"Mask wearing in indoor and congregated settings must be introduced alongside a strong public health campaign." 

The issue is being highlighted at a time of continued overcrowding across Irish hospitals, with a total of 460 people waiting on trolleys this morning (Tuesday July 5). 

University Hospital Limerick is currently the most overcrowded hospital in the country with 72 people waiting on trolleys. 

Ms Ní Sheaghdha called the cessation of Covid screening at emergency departments (EDs) despite the sharp rise in hospitalisations "unfathomable". 

She said, "Without screening upon arrival, we do not know the true scale of cases within our hospital system. All 29 emergency departments that nurses are currently working in are completely unsafe and overcrowded environment and not knowing the scale of Covid in our EDs is only making the situation worse. 

"Screening upon arrival must be reintroduced for those presenting to EDs and same day admissions for elective care." 

The General Secretary believes it's time for a second booster. 

She said, "It has been 9 months since healthcare workers first received their Covid booster vaccine. We believe that it is time for the National Immunisation Advisory Committee to recommend that patient-facing healthcare workers be provided with an appropriate second booster. We believe this is a decision that should be made swiftly. 

"The INMO has long called for the ventilation/airflow in hospitals to be examined. Health settings are not just places of care; they are workplaces for thousands of workers. The provision of a safe and healthy workplace is a legal responsibility held by employers, the safety of nurses and midwives should not be a secondary matter. 

"The vast majority of Covid outbreaks are now occurring in healthcare settings so ensuring proper air quality would go a long way to increasing the safety of our members and patients. 

"We cannot continue to ignore the impacts that Covid is having on our healthcare system. There are so many unknowns with this virus each time it presents itself in a new variant. We must act now to protect our health service and the public at large ahead of the unknowns of autumn and winter." 

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