An intensive care consultant has warned that if Covid-19 numbers continue to surge, other areas of the healthcare system will have to shut down.
Dr Catherine Motherway said that medics will continue to try to treat patients, but they may not have the same level of care “as in peacetime”.
“This is wartime,” she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
It was important to continue to provide non-Covid care, said Dr Motherway. When there was a surge, hospitals had to expand the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds which they did through high dependency units, but it was very difficult to ensure the same outcomes as in an ICU.
It would be far better for you not to meet me
Dr Motherway said that the intensive care system was being stretched across the country. Half of the ICU beds in her hospital, University Hospital Limerick, were occupied by Covid patients.
Half of these patients were older with reduced immunity, while the other half were younger unvaccinated people.
“If you are younger and vaccinated you are very unlikely to meet me. It would be far better for you not to meet me,” she said.
She said that unvaccinated Covid patients tended to have a longer stay in ICU, sometimes up to double the length of time. She said she was appealing to people to get vaccinated.
The Covid vaccine booster campaign was important, Dr Motherway said, as was working from home and reducing the level of contact.
If anyone had symptoms they should get a PCR test and assist with contact tracing to break the chain of transmission.
Dr Motherway said she did not envy the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and politicians, who would have to make difficult decisions.
The Delta variant was extremely transmissible, she said. It was a viral disease that would eventually make its way through the population.
It was important to slow it down so that the health system could cope and treat people, but people should avoid it if possible, she urged.
If people had some level of protection from the vaccine, then the virus would move more slowly, Dr Motherway added.