Covid: 4,764 new cases as health service faces ‘big concern’ over volume of absent staff

The HSE said there are 5,106 staff not in work because they have either tested positive for Covid or been deemed a close contact.
Covid: 4,764 new cases as health service faces ‘big concern’ over volume of absent staff

Cate McCurry, PA

Updated: 5.15pm

There is a big concern within the health service over the number of staff who are absent from work because of Covid issues.

The HSE said there are 5,106 staff not in work because they have either tested positive for Covid or been deemed a close contact.

Chief operations office Anne O’Connor said the figure does not include the people who are cocooning, and the overall number of absent staff could amount to 5,800.

Her concerns come as the Department of Health confirmed 4,764 new cases of the virus on Thursday. At 8am, there 598 Covid patients in hospital, 126 of whom were in ICU.

“We have a big concern now in terms of staff absence, so there are 5,106 who are either Covid positive or close contact,” Ms O’Connor said.

“We haven’t been this high in relation to our staff since the 26th of January.

“This is the highest number.

“It is a big concern for our system, and our ability to continue to deliver services.

“We expect and we hope that this will turn with the booster shots.

“But as it stands today, we have a lot of people out of work and that is a risk as we head into what will be a very busy time of our year.”

HSE boss Paul Reid said there continues to be a “really serious and continued escalation” of transmission levels in the community.

 

The chief executive said, however, that there has been a “very strong response” from the public over the past 10 days.

“Many people, and it’s very obvious now, have moved to work from home,” Mr Reid added.

“Certainly many people have planned to curtail their activities.

“I want to acknowledge from a health system we do appreciate that many people are making many sacrifices and giving plenty of support at this time.”

He said these sacrifices will be needed for a “sustained period of time”.

“We need to continue the actions, some good public health actions, because of transmission levels stellar far too high at present to revert back to where we were two weeks ago or so,” he added.

“The impact of this wave is not just putting pressure on our testing system, it is putting pressure across all aspects, from our GPs to our hospital system, to our ICUs and other aspects of our community services.”

He said that positivity levels are reaching 16 and 19 per cent in some areas.

Regarding the 126 people in ICU with the virus, 71 per cent over the age of 50 and 29 per cent aged 19-49.

Some 52 per cent of people in ICU are unvaccinated, with 47 per cent fully vaccinated, and 1 per cent partially vaccinated.

Ms O’Connor said hospitals are experiencing ongoing high levels of admissions of people with Covid.

“The reduction in number of people who are Covid positive in our hospital is related more to the discharging of people and also the fact that people have passed their 14-day period of being considered to be infectious and counted in that way,” she added.

“So the reality is we still have high numbers of people coming through and being admitted to the hospitals.

“We had the highest number ever there at last week with 81 people in one day being admitted to hospitals.

“As of today it’s 57 in the previous 24 hours, that’s still a lot of people being admitted to our hospital who are Covid positive within a 24 hour period.”

HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry said the five-day moving average of daily new cases is continuing to rise at 4,665, compared to a peak of 6,867 in January.

He said the number of people in hospital with the virus now stands at 598.

“There are relatively high number of admissions coming in every day,” he added.

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