THE flu crisis that has hit hospital A&Es and GP surgeries is expected to worsen in the days ahead.
Cork-based GP Dr John Sheehan has warned that the numbers presenting with flu will continue to rise.
“All the predictions seem to be that it will peak in a week or two weeks so, unfortunately, I think it will get worse,” he said.
“I hope the hospital situation will improve but certainly out in the community I think it will worsen in the next week or two. And for every 100 patients you see, you are going to have a few of them who may require hospital admission. It is an inevitability.”
Dr Sheehan said they had seen an unusually high increase in flu cases this year and the illness is hitting harder than normal.
“The patients who are sick are a lot sicker than you would see in other years. They are floored with it and out of work for a week. These are normally fit and healthy people.”
His biggest fear, a major outbreak in a nursing home, has so far been avoided.
“We haven’t seen many outbreaks in nursing homes. That would be a big concern because if it starts and spreads, residents are very vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the HSE to take emergency measures in all acute hospitals to avoid overcrowding and to reduce the risk of cross-infection.
Nurses have warned that Cork hospitals don’t have the capacity to isolate flu victims.
Liam Conway, a representative for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said: “We don’t have the capacity to isolate the people coming in with the flu, they’re sitting on trolleys with other patients around them. This has the potential to lead to a severe spread of the flu.”
Nurses have recorded a total of 2,408 patient on trolleys during the first week of 2018. This marks an increase of 221, or 10%, on the same period in 2017.
All hospital chief executives have been advised by the National HSE Acute Hospitals Division to meet the nursing representatives as soon as possible. An Emergency Department Taskforce will meet on Monday to set out immediate, medium and long-term practical approaches to the current recurring problem of hospital overcrowding.
Mr Conway added: “The INMO is due to meet with the HSE nationally and I have requested meetings with the hospital management of CUH to discuss measures that need to be put in place. We need to ensure that any beds that can be freed up, are freed up.”