overwhelmed  | 

Nurses and doctors call for 'urgent' re-introduction of Covid measures including masks

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said hospitals are overwhelmed

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Nurses and doctors’ groups have called for the re-introduction of Covid measures including mask wearing “as a matter of urgency”.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) said hospitals are overwhelmed and staff need help.

They have now called on Government, public health officials and HSE senior management to take action as there are “very significant risks for medical and nursing staff".

"Higher rates of infection are causing high rates of hospital admission. Hospitals are overwhelmed and staff need real assistance," the groups say.

"Public health measures must be revisited, particularly the simple ones: mask-wearing in indoor and congregated settings and working from home.

"There should be adherence to the advice from the World Health Organisation", they add.

They also warned that medical and nursing staff are exhausted from being on the front line, "dealing with wave-upon-wave of patients diagnosed with Covid and the other drivers of increased attendances", while dealing with their own personal and family anxieties.

This comes as over 10,000 patients have been without a bed since the mask mandate was lifted on February 28, and more than 1,601 patients are in hospital currently with coronavirus.

Emergency powers introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19 will expire at midnight.

The Health Act has given the health minister the power to restrict travel, prevent gatherings and close premises for the past two years.

The lapsing legislation would also be needed for a mandate on mask wearing to be re-introduced - something the Government has ruled out.

However, INMO General-Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "Wearing masks and working from home will assist, they will not stop the spread, but have and will reduce intensity of infection and reduce cross infection.

"Mandating these measures is now a matter of urgency.

"Hospitals are currently not safe for patients or for staff because of the level of overcrowding and COVID infection levels.

"We need clear and coherent public health advice from Government and senior public health officials."

IAEM President Fergal Hickey said: "The situation in Irish hospitals at present is the worst that many of my colleagues and I have seen in our careers.

"The situation at present is intolerable for all who work in our hospitals.

"Our hospitals have been hanging together by a thread of goodwill of staff but that is about to snap.

"Immediate stronger public health measures are needed: not doing so and abandoning the hospitals to the inevitable will lead to preventable unnecessary higher levels of illness requiring hospital admission and, sadly, for some a fatal outcome."

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Fergal Hickey described the current situation in emergency departments as intolerable and unsafe.

"Emergency departments are not in a position to cope. We have large numbers of patients in hospital with Covid.

"We have wards with outbreaks of Covid. We have large numbers of people on trolleys."

Dr Hickey, who is a senior emergency consultant at Sligo Regional Hospital, said a return to mask wearing in indoor settings and working from home where possible would lessen the risk to patients and staff.

"It will not resolve the problem, he said, but it may make the difference between life and death for individual patients.

"Any improvement in the current situation will lessen the risk for patients and lessen the risk for staff. we're not suggesting and I've never suggested, that this will resolve the problem."

He said positive outcomes lessen for those patients who are forced to wait long periods of time in emergency departments.

"We are asking the Government to act on our request, he said.

"We know for example, that if you have to wait for more than five hours from decision to admit in the emergency department, an additional one in 82 patients will die as a direct result.

"We know that if you're in an emergency department that's overcrowded there's an increase in 30 day mortality from all causes for all patients," he said.

"There are things which are potentially preventable by some action," he added.

HSE boss Paul Reid trweetd: "The impacts of the current Covid wave will continue to impact our hospitals & healthcare significantly through April.

"Please wear a mask in the appropriate settings & come forward for your booster vaccine once due. All actions can help protect & mitigate further impacts."

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