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Tanaiste warns of ‘precarious’ number of Covid-19 patients

Leo Varadkar urged people to follow health regulations.

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Tanaiste has warned that the outbreak of coronavirus cases in Ireland’s hospitals remains “precarious”.

Leo Varadkar said the struggle to contain the pandemic will continue over the coming weeks.

There are currently 1,838 people in hospital with Covid-19, and 176 people in intensive care, figures that are much higher than the first wave.

He urged people to support health staff by following health regulations.

“We need to decrease the number of people getting Covid and going into hospital, and that is the best way we can turn the corner in the situation,” he told the Dail.

“What is somewhat encouraging is the number of admissions to hospital yesterday, which was 149, but the number of discharges was 128, so the net increase in the last day is much smaller than previous days.”

He added, however, that there is a “glimmer of hope”.

“Cases have been falling now for a number of days, we may see the total number of people being hospitalised starting to fall in about a week’s time,” he added.

Mr Varadkar went on to warn that it will be a “very precarious and dangerous” time in hospitals for the next two weeks.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said the situation in Ireland’s hospitals is continuing to deteriorate, adding that the daily figures make for “grim reading”.

The (health) staff are facing something that is unimaginablePearse Doherty, Sinn Fein

He said the latest reports show there are 13 hospitals without any ICU capacity, and seven other hospitals have only one ICU bed left.

“ICU capacity, we are told, are expected to be used up by the weekend,” Mr Doherty added.

“I want to express my solidarity to all the staff and indeed the patients.

“The staff are facing something that is unimaginable.

“It is a very worrying time, they are overworked, they are exhausted, they are anxious about the period ahead and many of them are angry that they are left in this situation.”

He also said that the Government’s failure to build additional capacity has left hospitals relying on surge capacity.

Mr Varadkar said the deal struck with private hospitals allows the State to use up to 60% of the private hospital capacity.

However, he said that while 30% capacity has been secured, there are discussions under way to use the additional 30%.

Mr Doherty criticised the Government’s On Call for Ireland initiative, saying there is a pool of about 1,500 doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff, who are ready and willing to work in the country’s hospitals.

The Donegal TD said these workers have not yet been deployed.

“The reality is if it wasn’t for the department dragging its heels, we could have 200 additional nurses in Ireland by the end of the month,” he told the Dail.

Mr Varadkar said the programme ran into difficulties, adding that a lot of people who signed up were “not qualified”.

Independent TD Cathal Berry compared the IT system used as part of the vaccination programme with a 13th-century means of documenting the process.

He said the IT system “does not work at all”.

“If you go into a nursing home and open your laptop, you can’t put in any data from a vaccine perspective which is a big problem,” he told the Dail.

“We are combing 21st-century, cutting-edge vaccine medicine with 13th-century means of recording them, which is pencil and paper.

“That has significant downstream effects for data-presentation.”

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