'It will get worse before it gets better' – Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warns Covid-19 hospitalisations set to peak

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has warned that the numbers in intensive care units (ICU) will continue to rise and “the situation will get worse before it gets better.”

owever, he said today that the number of patients being hospitalised with Covid-19 is expected to peak within the next week or two, in what has been the third wave of the pandemic here.

Mr Donnelly was speaking as the latest figures show there are 1,923 people in hospital with Covid-19 today. This is a further increase from figure’s yesterday, when 1,854 patients were hospitalised.

He said that new modelling from Professor Philip Nolan in the past few days suggests that this week, or potentially next week, “hopefully this week, but in the next week or two, that the hospitalisations and the number of patients in ICU should peak.”

Mr Donnelly said that there are currently 195 patients in critical care. “The number in ICU is going to continue to rise. We know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We have surge capacity of 350 critical care beds.”

He said that there are 40 to 50 critical care beds available under the deal in place with private hospitals. “The focus right now is on making sure that, we have the beds, most importantly we have the staff. There has been a lot of work done since the first wave.”

“PPE is fine. The number of ventilators if you remember back in March was a very serious concern, oxygen is fine. About 1,500 nurses have been trained in ICU. So a lot of work has been done.

“Nonetheless, the system is, and will continue to be under very significant pressure for the next few weeks.”

Mr Donnelly also spoke on RTÉ’s This Week radio programme about the decision to suspend nursing and midwifery student placements for first to third year for at least two weeks to facilitate the redeployment of additional qualified nurses and midwives to support the COVID-19 response.

He said that the HSE made a request of the Department to suspend the placements for a few weeks, “while we are in the highest pressure of all of this. What it does, I am told, is free up several hundred experienced and qualified nurses who are needed on the frontline for the patients right now.”

SIPTU representatives today said the lack of consultation surrounding the decision to suspend the student placements “will only deepen the serious crisis in the health service.”

Mr Donnelly said: “It’s an operational request from the HSE. They are best placed to know how to deploy the nurses.”

“We want to get the placements back in place obviously as soon as possible because the ongoing education of the students is of paramount importance.”

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly said that all nursing home residents will have received their first vaccination dose by next Sunday.

“We have pulled forward about 26,000 vaccinations into the next seven days, he said.

Mr Donnelly said this day next week, there will be 140,000 people vaccinated, 70,000 in a long-term residential care setting and 70,000 frontline healthcare workers.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said: “”This virus has taken root in every single part of the country. A significant percentage of the population – in excess of 1 in 10 in some counties – is currently either a case or a close contact. This is a huge burden of infection.”

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Source: Irish News