The Health Service Executive (HSE) has warned that Covid-19 cases could fill over half of the nation's intensive care unit (ICU) beds within two weeks.
It made the statement following the emergence of a worrying forecast of an increase of cases in Ireland yesterday.
The news also follows after the Mater Hospital in Dublin recently announced that it was activating surge intensive care plans, because of the huge demands it is facing this week.
This has led to the cancellation of some outpatient and inpatient procedures and surgery.
HSE chief operations officer Ann O‘Connor has said that more Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital are very sick, and as of yesterday, 81 were on a ventilator.
Meanwhile, 3,800 hospital staff are currently absent due to issues related to the virus: a rise of 1,000 in just a week.
The HSE’s €77 million winter plan – covering the period from October to March – said another 143 hospital beds are due to be opened by the end of this year, with another 62 then planned for March.
However, the HSE plan said that modelling figures – which do not include waning immunity among the fully vaccinated – suggest that between 152 and 164 COVID-19 patients may need critical care by the end of this month.
It added that between 513 and 615 patients who have the virus may be in general wards.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Catherine Motherway, intensive care specialist at University Hospital Limerick, admitted that her hospital is now having to activate surge intensive care capacity, with 13 Covid-19 patients seriously ill.
Dr Motherway pointed out Covid-19 patients tend to have a longer stay in intensive care.
She added that she had seen no young, healthy, fully vaccinated patients in ICU and the higher risk among those double jabbed is to people with underlying conditions and older age groups.
Potential further strains:
In addition to the forecast, the HSE's Director of Acute Hospitals, Liam Woods, recently told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that non-emergency services may be cancelled and the use of private hospitals expanded if case numbers continue to rise.
He also warned it is not realistic for the system to cope with between 400 and 500 ICU admissions, and that everything possible is being done to accelerate the vaccine booster campaign.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has also commented on the most recent forecast, comparing the HSE’s Winter Preparedness Plan 2021-2022 to "a plaster covering a gaping wound."
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to announce a number of measures later today, including once more advising people to work from home where possible and the earlier closing time of midnight for the hospitality sector from Thursday night.
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