Healthcare workers bodies are calling for the government to reintroduce indoor mask wearing and working from home, as hospitals are put under extreme pressure from spiraling cases.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM), representing doctors in Emergency Departments, say that action is needed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
This comes as over 10,000 patients have been without a bed since the mask mandate was lifted on February 28, and roughly 1,600 patients are hospitalised with COVID-19.
NMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that wearing masks and working from home won’t stop the spread of the virus, but “have and will” reduce the intensity of the wave.
“Predictable overcrowding in winter, mixed with higher community spread of an airborne contagious infection means decision-makers are not in the dark.”
“Abandoning our public acute hospitals is a decision that Government cannot make, this would be the wrong decision for patients and the wrong one for staff.”
COVID infection levels, and typical overcrowding, mean that hospitals are not safe for patients or staff at the moment, she added.
The Saolta Group declared this week that Galway University Hospitals were having to defer non-urgent procedures due to extreme pressure affecting bed capacity.
Saolta said that there are currently three wards dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19 and a further six wards have areas dealing with outbreaks.
According to HPSV figures, there have were 89,432 cases in the two weeks leading up to March 27, accounting for over 6 percent of all cases in the pandemic.
Of the COVID deaths in Ireland, more than half have been linked to outbreaks, with 90 percent of outbreaks linked to healthcare facilities.
Mr Fergal Hickey, IAEM President, said that the situation in Ireland’s hospitals is worse now than many of his colleagues have ever seen.
“The situation at present is intolerable for all who work in our hospitals. Our hospitals have been hanging together by a thread of goodwill of staff but that is about to snap.”
He added that it has been “repeatedly and robustly” proved that emergency department overcrowding leads to increased mortality for all patients.