winter woes | 

HSE chief warns that worst of flu outbreak is yet to come

Hospitals, which have been impacted by the winter explosion in viruses, including flu, Covid and RSV will remain under unprecedented pressure

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Eilish O'ReganSunday World

The severe outbreak of flu has not yet peaked and high levels are expected to linger into February and even March, it emerged today.

It means struggling hospitals, which have been impacted by the winter explosion in viruses, including flu, Covid and RSV will remain under unprecedented pressure with 497 patients waiting on trolleys for a bed today.

HSE chief Stephen Mulvaney said today that we will continue with high levels of flu and other viruses in to February and even in to March.

It means the emergency response measures to “protect patient safety” and which are keeping a lid hospitals reverting to record overcrowding could remain for possibly 10 weeks.

He said: “Two of the last three weeks saw record levels of attendance and admission of patients over 75 years of age.

"Total admissions over the last three weeks were 21,837, 10pc above our most pessimistic modelling.”

Additional staff will be rostered again this weekend to and next improve patient discharges and free up beds for people coming through the emergency department.

Flu infected 3,057 people last week, a rise of 35pc from the last week in December with the highest rates in the over 65s and children aged four and younger. The rate of increase may be slowing but cases are continuing to climb.

It led to an increase in hospitalisations for 693 patients, up 14pc with hundreds of over-65s with the virus admitted.

Covid-19 cases also rose to 3,475 last week with a slight drop in hospitalisations although 622 with the virus were admitted, including eight in intensive care which is a slight drop. Positivity fell to 19.4pc indicating the current wave may be about to decline.

Attendances at emergency departments reached 24,132, a fall of 13.6pc on the previous week .

Some 6,726 patients had to be admitted – many having endured long waits on a trolley or chair, a fall of 11.7pc.

Up to 3,744 of patients who attended the emergency department were over 75 and 1,925 were sick enough to need a bed.

Less than half of patients over 75 who attended emergency departments last week were admitted or discharged within the nine hour target.

There have been no deaths from invasive Strep A this year although 14 cases were diagnosed including nine in children.

Damien McCallion, chief operating officer, said 524 patients are medically well but cannot be discharged until suitable supports are in place.

Nearly half are waiting for supports to go home and others need residential care and rehab.

Others have complex needs and require appliances and adaptions after acquired brain injury.

In other cases the patient is homeless or a ward or court or they cannot leave due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

He said 207 patients were discharged from the delayed transfer of care list over the last seven days with an average of 30 a day leaving hospital.

The winter plan and emergency measures to try to control hospital overcrowding include extra GP clinics, and out of hours services, use of community intervention teams and transfer of patients to 180 private hospital beds.

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