Emergency consultant criticises ‘anaemic’ Government response to Covid surge

The president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine has criticised the Government for its “anaemic” response to the surge in Covid cases and hospitalisations.

Dr Fergal Hickey warned the healthcare service was not coping with the latest wave of Covid-19 and said steps must be taken to “flatten the curve”.

The association has joined forces with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in issuing a statement calling on the Government to revisit restrictions such as indoor mask-wearing in congregated settings and working from home.

Their call came as pandemic emergency powers to restrict travel and stop public gatherings , which were signed into law in March 2020, were due to expire at midnight on Thursday.

Dr Hickey, who is also an emergency medicine consultant at Sligo General Hospital, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the situation in emergency departments was “unsafe and intolerable”.

“We know, for example, that if you have to wait for more than five hours for a decision to admit in an emergency department, an additional one in 82 patients will die as a direct result,” he said.

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU



“We know that if you are in an emergency department that is overcrowded there is an increase in 30-day mortality from all causes for all patients. They are things which are potentially preventable by some action.”

The number of patients with the virus in hospital on Thursday morning was 1,535, down from 1,610 the previous day. The number of virus patients in intensive care (ICU) was 49.

Dr Hickey said the Government needs to act immediately in order to avoid further chaos, and called on chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan to advise the Government.

“We don’t see politicians, we don’t see senior figures within the HSE visiting emergency departments at the moment because they would be afraid of what they might find,” he said.

Dr Hickey said hospitals were not looking for a return to draconian restrictions, but “relatively simple interventions of requiring people to wear a mask in indoor settings and advising people to work from home where possible”.

He said such interventions could mean the difference for individual patients between “life and death”.

‘Better position’

Speaking on Wednesday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he did not think it was appropriate to impose new legal restrictions and said the focus should be on vaccines and encouraging people to isolate if they were sick.

“We expect it will peak in the next weeks. We certainly will be in a much better position by the end of April,” he said.

There are signs the current wave may be peaking. The combined number of positive results from PCR and antigen tests each day, though an underestimate of the real number of infections, has started to decline. Hospitalisations are rising more slowly and ICU numbers are holding steady.

On Wednesday the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) was notified of a further 5,381 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19. In addition, 7,127 people registered a positive antigen result through the HSE’s online portal on Tuesday.

Covid-19 outbreaks rose last week to their highest level so far this year, figures revealed on Wednesday, however, the 201 outbreaks reported over the past seven days may in part be due to under-reporting of outbreaks in the previous week, which included a bank holiday, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

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