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HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly has admitted he is concerned about the “significant risk” to patients attending the ED in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) which was identified in a recent report.

Hospitals on alert for surge in Covid-19 cases

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ACUTE hospitals in the Mid-West are on the alert for a possible significant surge in Covid-19 cases during the Christmas period due to the increased transmission of the new Omicron variant, writes Dan Danaher.

There were 109 new cases of Covid-19 in Clare on Sunday, December 19, 197 in Limerick and 51 in North Tipperary. This compared to 65 new cases in Clare on December 13, 149 in Limerick and 56 in Tipperary.

Meanwhile, the 14-day incidence of Covid-19 in Clare has increased slightly from 1,120 per 100,000 on December 13 to 1,133 on December 19. It also went up marginally in Limerick from 913 to 1,024 but fell in Tipperary from 1,441 to 1,322 during the same period.

There were 1,331 cases in Clare from November 30 to December 13, 1,780 in Limerick and 2,300 in Tipperary during the same period.

The latest 14-day incidence rate from December 6 to December 19 reveal 1,347 new cases in Clare, 1,996 in Limerick and 2,110 in Tipperary.

The five-day moving average is 107 in Clare, 172 in Limerick and 155 in Tipperary.

The UL Hospitals’ Group has confirmed its critical care capacity has increased by 56% following a claim from Deputy Violet Anne-Wynne the increase in ICU capacity at UHL in 2021 is “embarrassingly low”.

There are now 28 critical care beds at University Hospital Limerick, of which 12 are in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, and 16 in the hospital’s High Dependency Unit.

A spokesperson for the group said HSE investment has allowed the UL Hospitals’ Group to significantly increase its critical care capacity and also to recruit the critical care staff whose specialist skills are in high demand the world over and even more prized since the start of the pandemic.

“Opening an intensive care bed takes considerable service planning that is all the more challenging in a global health emergency. The group are proud of all the staff who have planned and implemented this significant increase in the region’s critical care capacity in the Critical Care Block at UHL, which is a state-of-the-art single-room facility.”

The group has developed a critical care surge plan for the expansion of critical care beds and the redeployment of staff, which it will follow as required.

In recent weeks, HDU beds have been converted into ICU beds. The group are currently using 14 ICU beds and 12 HDU beds and can further flex capacity in the critical care block as required in line with its surge plan.

“It is at this point uncertain what effect the Omicron variant will have on demand for critical care beds but the advice from bodies such as the WHO, ECDC, NPHET and from the HSE is clear. Members of the public are being encouraged to reduce their social contacts and follow all the relevant public health advice to break the chains of transmission and reduce the burden of disease.”

Deputy Wynne said only six extra ICU/HDU beds were provided at UHL in 2021 in the midst of a pandemic.

On Monday, there were 28 confirmed Covid-19 patients receiving treatment and ten suspected cases in UHL, of which 11 were in ICU beds.

The following day there were 41 patients on trolleys in UHL.

Meanwhile, Labour leader, Alan Kelly has revealed there will be no post-mortems carried out in the Mid-West until after December 28 due to a lack of available pathologists.

While Deputy Michael McNamara accepts that people are perfectly entitled to take leave, he said the HSE’s Human Resources Department should always have adequate cover in place, particularly at this time of year.

“Families who have suffered a bereavement will now have the added pain of potentially delaying a funeral.”

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