A Dublin hotel and conference centre has become the first of a series of new coronavirus centres for isolation and stepdown care in Ireland.
The hotel part of the Citywest complex will provide beds for 750 people who are unable to self-isolate due to the nature of their own living arrangements. It will open at the end of the week.
The Citywest conference centre is being turned into a stepdown care facility for Covid-19 patients who are recovering from the infection.
The 450 beds earmarked for the facility will only be used once capacity in hospital settings has been exceeded.
It will start operating, if needed, in two or three weeks’ time.
We are certainly working towards the peak in mid-April - so over the next two to three weeksAnne O'Connor, HSE
Similar isolation/stepdown facilities will be opened in other urban centres across Ireland, including Cork, Limerick and Galway.
Senior HSE officials announced the moves at the Citywest centre on Sunday morning.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said it was important to plan for the worst-case scenario. “We have to be prepared,” he said.
The new centres are part of a ramping-up of preparations across the healthcare sector in Ireland for the anticipated surge in coronavirus cases.
By utilising private hospital facilities and securing adding equipment, the HSE is set to double the number of critical care beds from 250 to 500.
As of Sunday morning, 88 patients with Covid-19 were in an ICU bed in Ireland.
However, there are fears that number is likely to soar in the coming days and weeks.
Mr Reid said about 1,700 additional beds with ventilation support would be available, with plans to increase that number by 100 each week for the next ten weeks.
HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said it was impossible to be certain when the peak might come, but THAT HSE planning models suggested it could be mid-April.
“I don’t know that any of us can really say exactly when the peak is going to be,” she said.
“We are certainly working towards the peak in mid-April – so over the next two to three weeks. And that is what we are planning for, but clearly we don’t know. But we do have to work on some basis when it comes to planning, so we are planning for a peak kind of between the 10th and the 14th of April, around that time.”
Mr Reid said the hospital system would come under significant pressure as he acknowledged that the HSE was nervous about what lay ahead.
“Our hospital system in particular will be under significant pressure in the coming weeks,” he said.
Mr Reid urged the public to support healthcare workers in any way they could.
“I know the public is nervous, our healthcare workers are very nervous too and we are nervous for them,” he said.
“So it is going to be a difficult period. So this is a special call-out from me as the CEO of the HSE to really support our health care workers in the coming weeks.”
Ireland recorded its highest daily death toll in the coronavirus outbreak on Saturday, with 14 people losing their lives.
The deaths brought the total number of victims in the state to 36, with 2,415 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland.
This weekend has seen the start of a further major clampdown on movement in Ireland.
The restrictions were ordered by the Government on Friday night amid fears that critical care hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.
People have been ordered to remain in their homes in all but a limited set of specific circumstances until Sunday April 12.