The chief executive of the Saolta hospital group Tony Canavan has said that attendances at emergency departments in some hospitals are 20 per cent higher than they were in 2019.
The Saolta group, which manages hospitals in Galway city, Sligo, Letterkenny, Ballinasloe, Roscommon and Castlebar, is examining the reasons for the increased attendances, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
All of the hospitals were under significant pressure from a staffing perspective, he said, with vacancies in every site, particularly for nurses.
The number of Covid patients across the Saolta hospitals has risen from 62 to 90 in the past week and there aretwo wards where there had been an outbreak of the virus, Mr Canavan added. This was due to a combination of patients being admitted with the virus and others contracting it while in hospital.
All the appropriate measures were being taken, he said, but it was a feature of Covid-19 that when numbers increased in the community, this resulted in increased hospitalisations and increased cases in hospitals. This had led to the closure of some beds which in turn had led to the cancellation of elective surgeries.
Mr Canavan said the term 'elective' did not adequately describe the care needed for such patients and it did not mean the patients were not in pain. Having to cancel such procedures was significant, he stressed.
The recent rise in Covid cases had taken the system by surprise and added more pressure for hospitals where, in some cases, staff were on Covid related leave, he added.
When asked if booster vaccines for healthcare staff would help the situation, Mr Canavan said if the decision was made to offer the vaccine to staff, then the hospital would be ready to do so quickly.