Hospitals are under “extreme pressure” due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in Ireland, medics have warned.
Progress made on keeping case numbers down seems to be completely undone, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said.
The union sounded an alarm about a major increase in the number of patients combined with high levels of staff on Covid-19 leave or self-isolating.
Staff are far more experienced than they were at the start of this pandemic, but the sheer numbers are difficult to cope withINMO
INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said: “What we are hearing from members across the country this weekend is deeply disturbing.
“The progress we made on keeping case numbers down seems to be completely undone.”
She said the pandemic was creating more patients while depleting staffing.
“It’s a vicious combination. Staff are far more experienced than they were at the start of this pandemic, but the sheer numbers are difficult to cope with.”
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has more than doubled from this day last week, as has the number in intensive care units, official tallies showed.
Another seven deaths have been recorded, the Department of Health said on Sunday.
We are seeing a really significant surge in infection, which is leading to a very rapid increase in both hospitalisations and admissions to critical care unitsDr Tony Holohan
The health system has been notified of 4,962 confirmed cases.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “This is a critical time.
“We are seeing a really significant surge in infection, which is leading to a very rapid increase in both hospitalisations and admissions to critical care units.
“This is not only unsustainable for the healthcare system, but also a deeply concerning level of preventable sickness and suffering that we must work together to address as quickly as possible.”
Frontline medics are running three services in parallel – a Covid health service, a non-Covid health service and a mass vaccination scheme, the union added.
It said this can only work if pressure on hospitals is eased.
Ms Ni Sheaghdha added: “On behalf of Ireland’s nurses and midwives, the INMO is asking that the public stay home and strictly follow public health advice.
“The vaccine is being rolled out – we simply need to keep cases down.
“We need all hands on deck here.
Older people and people with medical conditions are strongly advised not to leave home at the moment.— Local Authorities Ireland (@LAsIreland) January 3, 2021
Each local authority has a Community Call helpline that can help with deliveries or other practical supports.https://t.co/lb3NSgXO4d #StayHome #Covid19Ireland pic.twitter.com/teobhHervG
“The Government and HSE must focus on supporting the exhausted frontline healthcare workers.
“This means taking on additional capacity in the private sector and ensuring the childcare needs of frontline workers are taken into account.”
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the Government had given “clear directions” to the Department of Health and HSE that all non-essential medical electives or outpatient services be put on hold to ensure enough beds remain available for people with the virus.
He said around 1,500 beds, which became available over the Christmas period, should be kept free.
Mr Ryan told Newstalk’s On the Record with Gavan Reilly show: “What we’ve said to the hospitals and the health system is to keep them free, don’t fill them up again with procedures that could be put back for a later date because we could see we were facing into a real difficulty with this surge in numbers.”
Leo Varadkar said further restrictions had not been ruled out.
On RTE’s This Week, the Tanaiste said there is a strong case to say that the current restrictions should be left in place until those most at risk have been vaccinated, even into February.
With Covid case numbers rising rapidly, itâs more important than ever that each and every one of us does what is being asked of us.— MicheÃ¡l Martin (@MichealMartinTD) January 3, 2021
Stay home and strictly limit social contacts.
We must do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable and those on the frontline.
He said additional restrictions cannot be ruled out but current measures were only introduced on December 30 and must be given time to work.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said: “With Covid case numbers rising rapidly, it’s more important than ever that each and every one of us does what is being asked of us.
“Stay home and strictly limit social contacts.
“We must do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable and those on the frontline.”