Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, who is Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said that HSE statistics indicate that while patient numbers in ICU are “relatively stable”, that the number of people hospitalised with the virus has “increased substantially in the past two weeks”.
Dr Quinlan said: “This is a major concern. As GPs we are concerned that elective surgeries may be postponed or cancelled.
"We are aware of patients who may have had to wait several years for a hip replacement for example, and who have put a lot of arrangements in place to ensure they have this operation.
A spokesperson for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) told: “Our members in Cork are crying out for some kind of relief for them and their patients.
"It’s not possible to keep patients safe in such an overcrowded environment and staff are at their wits’ end, while the risk of Covid transmission is just far too high.”
“The situation is beyond critical. It’s absolutely urgent that acute and urgent cases are prioritised and resources are diverted from private facilities to help deal with this surge.”
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that it has become “increasingly difficult to fill rosters” due to Covid-related leave and called on the HSE to take measures to protect the nursing and midwifery workforce.
“Our nursing and midwifery rosters are depleted. It is becoming increasingly difficult to fill rosters. According to our calculations, based on figures provided by the HSE, 7.29% of nurses are on Covid-related leave at present.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that while the INMO welcome calls from the HSE Chief Executive Officer Paul Reid for hospitals to curtail all non-emergency care for the next two weeks, that this should be extended until the end of January at least to give nurses and midwives “some chance of being able to carry out their work safely”.
Meanwhile, Dr Quinlan said that GPs are also significantly busy and are “experiencing high levels of referrals for PCR tests, and advice about Covid symptoms”.
“We ask the public to be patient — if you can’t get through on the phone, do try again later, or check the GP website for up-to-date information,” he said.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said thatOmicron is also placing community pharmacies under significant pressure, resulting in some being required to reduce hours or close for certain days as they struggle to cope with staff shortages.
The IPU has said that pharmacies will continue to play a very active role in the vaccination programme, but people are requested to plan ahead and, where possible, order required medications, such as repeat prescriptions, well in advance.