Former HSE boss warns of catastrophic winter if Covid figures rise


FORMER HSE director general Tony O’Brien has said if the Covid-19 figures increase in Irish hospitals, the country would be facing “a catastrophic winter.”

r O’Brien called for the Government to provide all the necessary funding the HSE asks for during the winter period to ensure the system is able to cope.

The former HSE chief spoke in the aftermath of three wards being closed at Beaumont Hospital due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

Mr O’Brien made it clear that bed blocking could not be allowed while he warned overcrowding could not be tolerated during a pandemic when social distancing is vital.

Mr O’Brien said if the figures increased in hospitals: “We would be looking at a catastrophic winter – it’s really important the HSE is given all the resources it needs from the Government.

“If the health system isn’t sustainable, the social and economic implications are enormous.

“Covid-19 isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The reason our shutdown had to be so quick was to keep the curve down, we know the challenges of the health service to cope is even greater.

“Hopefully within a week, a winter plan will be agreed for additional beds, rehab beds, community respiratory assessment hubs, more diagnostic ability… so there’s no financial barrier to moving on to nursing homes or home care.”

Mr O’Brien told RTÉ Radio 1 that “hospital beds are for those who only really need them.”

“Imagine overcrowding when we are trying to keep 2m apart, it would be unacceptable.

“What the HSE needs to improve its situation, it needs to be given, for the sake of all of us.”

Mr O’Brien said the public had to continue being highly vigilant to help protect the health system and communities.

This meant there had to be the “consistent wearing of masks, maintaining social distance, hand hygiene and coughs in elbows,” he said.

And he warned if there was to be a “bad flu season” this would also be “enormously challenging”.

“This will help to prevent influenza , if we had a bad inf season it would be “enormously challenging” for the HSE.

“We all need to be really conscious of all the things we’ve been focused on to an even greater extent.”

Those that need or have been offered a flu vaccine should avail of it, Mr O’Brien added, to assist in taking the strain off the health system.

And he added that every member of the public should look after their health this winter, to help the system cope through the winter. “The flu vaccine is very important in how we look after ourselves,” he added.

Mr O’Brien said he always availed of the flu vaccine and said those who are immunosuppressed and have other health conditions leaving them more likely to be vulnerable to flu, should get the injection.

Online Editors

Source: Irish News