Trolley Problem | 

Irish hospitals ‘won’t cope’ with winter ‘twindemic’ of Covid-19 and flu

The HSE is braced for one of the worst winters in years with severe staff shortages and “unprecedented and sustained” levels of unplanned hospital admissions.

Hospital (stock image)

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

Irish hospitals “will not cope this winter” if hit with a so-called “twindemic” of Covid and flu, the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned.

The HSE is braced for one of the worst winters in years with severe staff shortages and “unprecedented and sustained” levels of unplanned hospital admissions, particularly among older people.

The HSE’s draft winter plan, leaked to the Sunday Independent, reveals that the health service is preparing for as many as 17,000 Covid-19 hospital admissions over the six months of winter — with 700 of those in ICU.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, General Secretary of The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, explained that there are concerns hospitals may become “overwhelmed” over the next few months as cases of Covid and the flu rise once again.

“We’re anticipating that our hospitals - that are already overcrowded - will not cope this winter,” she said.

“That’s why we’ve asked for an early agreement with private hospitals so that we can make sure that acute services are not overwhelmed to the point that if you’re a patient waiting for a procedure today that you’re getting a phone call to say, ‘Sorry, we don’t have a bed and we’re cancelling your procedure.’

“We believe that can be managed better and that the private hospitals in this country must be asked, as they were at the beginning of Covid, be part of the overall health service this winter with a view to making sure that the elective admissions can at least not have cancellations facing them for the entire winter.”

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the crisis was “predictable” due to the “extraordinarily high” number of trolleys being used in hospitals since early summer and issues with staffing shortages.

She added that there is a “need to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep our graduates, the student nurses and midwives who are due to graduate, because we don’t have an oversupply of nurses.

“We’re in fact quite short and therefore the graduates are very key to staffing our wards and keeping beds open.

“We have to make sure our hospitals are efficient as possible... Care on trolleys is not good care.”


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