Critical care bed shortage in Cork: No free bed available earlier this week 

Critical care bed shortage in Cork: No free bed available earlier this week 

The HSE’s daily update showed there were no critical care beds available in Cork on Monday evening, and that there were just five general beds available.

COVID-19 has driven the expansion of acute healthcare, but hospitals are still short of “dozens” of critical care beds around the country, according to a veteran consultant in Cork.

Chris Luke, consultant in emergency medicine, was speaking after the HSE’s daily update showed there were no critical care beds available in Cork on Monday evening, and that there were just five general beds available.

Dr Luke said the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic saw rapid expansion of critical care facilities — but that decades of bed shortages have not been reversed in the past six months.

“Covid has driven expansion but nonetheless we’re still short dozens of beds and dozens of specialist nurses,” he said. “I would imagine we’re short one or two dozen critical care beds in Cork alone and we’re probably short 50 to 100 nationally, at an estimate.

“We have a longstanding shortage which isn’t as bad as it was in March, thanks to HSE investment in beds and staff, but it’s still evident as a result of years of shortages.”

Yesterday, 432 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, including 41 in Cork.

There was one additional death reported in Ireland yesterday, bringing the total number of Covid-19 related deaths nationally to 1,811.

Dr Luke said the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic saw rapid expansion of critical care facilities — but that decades of bed shortages have not been reversed in the past six months.
Dr Luke said the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic saw rapid expansion of critical care facilities — but that decades of bed shortages have not been reversed in the past six months.

“We’ve had a capacity issue for decades, certainly going back to the early ’90s when there was a significant cull of hospital beds based on dubious health forecasts at the time,” Dr Luke said. “We’ve never recovered from that. Nationally, we’re short around 4,000 to 10,000 general beds.”

He emphasised the importance of curbing the spread of Covid-19.

“Given the exponential rise in cases and chronic shortage of critical care and general beds within the health service, level three is where we need to be,” he said.

“I understand people are tired of Covid but imagine how health workers feel.”

Meanwhile, Dr Margaret O’Sullivan, specialist in public health, HSE South, urged people to stay home if they experience symptoms and to contact their GP, and to stay home if they are awaiting test results, if they are deemed to be a close contact of someone with the virus, or if they received a positive test result.

A spokesperson for the HSE said each hospital has a surge plan for the management and placement of critical care patients if and when demand exceeds fixed capacity.

“In the event of such a surge, critical care capacity may be scaled up as needed,” she added. “Additional capacity will be delivered under winter plan 20/21.”

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