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capacity reached Struggling hospitals on the brink amid crippling staff shortages

Hospitals reaching into surge capacity by redeploying non-specialist staff to critical care roles and converting wards into intensive care areas

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Paramedics at the Mater Hospital in Dublin yesterday

Paramedics at the Mater Hospital in Dublin yesterday

Paramedics at the Mater Hospital in Dublin yesterday

Hospitals across the country are coming under increasing pressure as the number of Covid-19 patients escalates amid crippling staff shortages.

As of yesterday there were 1,850 people hospitalised with the virus and 184 in intensive care units.

Thirty-two intensive care beds were available nationwide, across both adult and paediatric units. More than 100 people with Covid-19 were on ventilators.

It comes as more hospitals reach into their surge capacity by redeploying non-specialist staff to critical care roles and converting wards into intensive care areas to accommodate seriously ill patients.

There are currently about 4,000 staff from acute hospitals absent from work due to Covid-19; either because they have contracted the virus themselves, or because they are a close contact of a confirmed case.

Last night, trade union Siptu warned Covid-19 infection rates of health care workers are unsustainable and putting the safe functioning of the health service in grave danger.

"This level of infection is completely unsustainable," said Siptu health division organiser Kevin Figgis.

"Health workers across all grades are being decimated while this virus is raging out of control across our health service.

"It is clear that health care workers are not safe in work and the current rate of infection is putting the safe functioning of the service in grave danger.

"We are again calling for the immediate recruitment of additional and essential staff to assist all health workers on the front line."

Yesterday, a group of nurses and doctors at Nenagh Hospital appeared in an online video demanding they receive the potentially life-saving vaccine as they were treating Covid patients.

The video showed staff pleading with Taoiseach Micheál Martin as well as Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to sanction the rollout of the vaccine in Nenagh.

Staff complained the rollout was well under way in its sister hospitals University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, and University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

Critical

UL Hospitals Group later confirmed that about 20 theatre staff based at Nenagh Hospital are to receive the vaccine, but will be redeployed to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) to support the hospital as it opens critical care surge capacity.

Meanwhile, management at the same group apologised to patients after it emerged that some were waiting more than 100 hours for a bed at UHL.

UHL has the most number of Covid-19 cases in the country at 150. Yesterday there were only three beds available in the hospital's 28-bed Critical Care Unit, where 13 patients with Covid-19 are being treated. A recently opened 60-bed block is mostly full with Covid-19 patients.

On Thursday, a UHL source said some patients admitted to the Emergency Department (ED) were waiting on trolleys for more than 100 hours.

The source claimed there were up to "94 people in the department" at one stage last Wednesday afternoon.

Those admitted to the ED were on trolleys in corridors "on top of one another", and, it was "impossible to maintain social distancing".

In response, a UL Hospitals spokesman said: "The Emergency Department at UHL has been very busy during this current challenging phase of the pandemic and we apologise to admitted patients who have faced long waits for beds.

"Hospitals around the country are under significant strain at present and our staff are making enormous efforts to keep patients safe."

Due to "significant community transmission in the mid-west and multiple outbreaks in healthcare settings across the region" it is "constrained in effecting inter-hospital transfers, discharges to community settings and discharges home".

The spokesman said this "is having a considerable impact on patient flow in UHL contributing to long waits for patients in ED".

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