COVID CRISIS 'If we don't all knuckle down, Covid-19 will take over every ICU bed we have,' health chiefs warn
HEALTH chiefs insist that critical care beds are available despite the surge in Covid-19 cases and the increased number of hospitalisations nationwide because of the virus.
The insistence came as a senior doctor warned that Cork faced the risk of patients having to be transferred elsewhere and critical cancer surgeries either being re-scheduled or postponed because of mounting pressure on available critical care bed capacity.
Cork GP Dr Mary Favier, a former president of the Irish College of Medicine General Practitioners, who is also a Cork-based adviser to Nphet, said hospitals faced increased pressure because of the ongoing surge in virus cases.
"As GPs, we can see and feel the health service under strain.
"GPs are phenomenally busy and we have an increasing number of Covid referrals every day," she told RTÉ.
"For the last number of days in Cork, there have been no intensive care beds available and one (doctor) had to ring several other units around the country before he could find a bed.
"That raises issues of safety and resources for transfer.
"It is for the Government to make those decisions but we know each week lost is a week longer in lockdown.
"There is a general rule that for every week you delay, you need to spend two weeks in additional restrictions. The sooner we act, the better. Critical care beds in hospitals are being used at the moment for non-Covid stuff such as cancers, heart surgeries, and other issues.
"They are already being delayed and deferred for months because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases."
Dr Favier said that, in any major Covid-19 surge and resultant increase in hospitalisations linked to viral respiratory issues, hospitals will face having to cope with a situation where Covid-19 cases are taking intensive care beds that would otherwise have been used for other conditions.
"People need to realise that any surge in beds will also result in staff being taken away from other areas to make it work."
Dr Favier said it was vital that the public adhere to any tough new Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to drive down case numbers.
"It is a very big concern for everyone," she said.
Last week, she revealed the respiratory treatment hub in Cork was operating at full capacity for the first time in five months.
"We need to knuckle down, be vigilant and treat the situation as if it was Level 5 - we have a week or maybe ten days to make a difference with this."
However, a South-Southwest Hospital Group (SSWHG) spokesperson insisted intensive care beds were available despite the second wave of cases.
"This morning there were four critical care beds available in Cork University Hospital (CUH)," the spokesperson said.
Another health source indicated that intensive care beds were also available in Dublin and Galway.