The health service in Cork would not be able to cope with current demand levels and a sudden surge in Covid-19 cases, a nurses’ union representative for the region has warned.
Liam Conway, Cork Industrial Relations Officer for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said the public must continue to adhere to the public health guidelines surrounding Covid-19.
Failure to do so could result in a “perfect storm” that the health service does not have the capacity to deal with, he said.
Mr Conway was speaking as figures on Wednesday showed almost 40 admitted patients were waiting for beds at Cork University Hospital and the Mercy University Hospital.
He explained that, during lockdown, hospital activity was significantly reduced which allowed staff to be redeployed to the front line fight against Covid-19.
With society reopening, activity levels have increased at hospitals in Cork and across Ireland.
“A perfect storm could arise where activity levels have to remain high because they are essential for people’s treatments and demand will increase because society is not locked down as it was at the start of the pandemic,” said Mr Conway.
“The health service as it is might not be able to meet that demand in such a scenario," he added.
Mr Conway said the INMO is also concerned for staff ahead of the coming winter after it was recently confirmed that a third of Covid-19 cases in Ireland were found to be among frontline health workers.
“It’s really, really important coming into the winter period with the recent overcrowding we’ve seen, that public health guidelines are followed by the public,” he said.
“If that is not the case and we see a surge at any stage during the winter, the health service will simply not cope.
“It won’t have the capacity to cope with both the normal activity as well as a surge in Covid-19 cases,” he added.
“We don’t have enough intensive care beds and we don’t have enough step-down facilities to discharge patients in Cork at the moment.
“There isn’t an excess of staff available to cope with the current demands coupled with potentially a large number of staff being required to self-isolate due to Covid-19 symptoms, a positive test, or coming into contact with a positive case.
“If wards are impacted by Covid-19 and staff are affected, there will be a depletion of staff and services will have to be restricted.”
The INMO Executive is currently urgently seeking talks to establish how many extra nursing and midwifery posts will be funded over the coming year, particularly in winter.