Ireland's hospitals are ready to deal with the surges, says Taoiseach, but the surge has not come yet

Jessica Thompson

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Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

abortion repeal the eight leo varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Since the beginning of this public health, 148 people have been admitted to ICU, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed this evening.

Of those, 25 have been discharged and are recovering and 14 have sadly passed away. There are 109 patients in ICUs with Covid-19 today.

"We have the capacity to ventilate about 1,200 patients at any given time in ICUs, in theatres, in recovery areas and in wards, so we have a lot of capacity to deal with the surge when it comes," said Mr Varadkar.

More ventilators are on the way but what's crucial is training up more staff to be able to use those ventilators, he added.

"Some real progress has been made in flattening the curve, so we're very grateful to the Irish public for cooperating with quarantine, social isolation and social distancing over the last few weeks.

"The rate of increase is decreasing. At the start of this, the rate of increase was roughly 33% per day. That's in or around 10% per day at the moment," said Mr Varadkar.

"We will have a better idea towards the end of next week as to how we're getting on, because we'll know then whether the most recent restrictions are making a difference and we'll be able to make a decision towards the end of next week as to whether those restrictions need to be extended, whether they can be relaxed in any way or refined in any way."

Read also: 13 more deaths in Ireland bringing Ireland's death toll to 98

The Taoiseach then addressed the fact that hospitals are very quiet, noting that there are "almost no patients on trolleys".

"We have 2,000 empty beds across our public hospital system and we have vacant ICU beds," he said.

"In 20 years in and out of hospitals in my various different guises, I have never seen so much capacity available in our public hospitals as we have now. And that is encouraging us that we will be ready for the surge when it comes, but it has not come yet. It is only starting and I need to emphasise that."

It is important, he added, not to ignore other medical conditions just because there is currently a public emergency with regard to Covid-19.

"If you are sick, you do need to seek medical attention. We encourage you to seek medical attention if you are seriously unwell," he said.

"One of the concerns we have is that during the course of this emergency, people who have other serious illnesses might have those illnesses missed.

"I know there are people who, at the moment, don't want to bother our doctors and nurses in the health service because the chest pain that they're feeling might not be serious enough and we are quite worried about what they call 'secondary deaths' - people dying, not as a consequence of Covid-19 but as a consequence of their heart attack not being diagnosed or their stroke being missed or their cancer not being diagnosed.

"And we are encouraging people who are having symptoms or who are unwell to still contact your GP, contact your consultant, call an ambulance if needs be. Because we don't want people missing out on essential healthcare that can't wait, as a result of Covid-19."

Read also: Do not ignore other ailments, says Longford's Dr Padraig McGarry