Nine die with flu-related illness, as flu hospital admissions rise, HSE says

Delayed discharges from hospitals up 12 per cent in first two weeks of this year

“We do expect to see influenza circulating for several weeks yet,” Dr John Cuddihy said. From left: Dr John Cuddihy, Joe Ryan, HSE, Dr Cillian DeGascun, Liam Woods, Angela Fitzgerald at a HSE media update on the seasonal flu/winter plan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

“We do expect to see influenza circulating for several weeks yet,” Dr John Cuddihy said. From left: Dr John Cuddihy, Joe Ryan, HSE, Dr Cillian DeGascun, Liam Woods, Angela Fitzgerald at a HSE media update on the seasonal flu/winter plan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

There has been a “significant increase” in the number of patients hospitalised due to the flu last week, Health Service Executive (HSE) officials have said.

Last week the health service recorded 254 hospital admissions of patients suffering from the flu, up from 151 the previous week.

Since the start of this flu season there have been 545 hospital admissions, however the rate of admissions has been increasing since the last week of 2018.

Dr John Cuddihy, HSE director of public health, said there had been a “significant increase” in flu hospitalisations since the first week of the year.

“The age group mainly affected by these are the under-five-year-olds, and the next highest age group affected in terms of hospitalisations is the over-65s,” he told a briefing for media on Thursday.

The HSE said 16 flu patients had been admitted to intensive care units last week, primarily due to respiratory complications due to pre-existing conditions. Nine people have died from flu-related illnesses in the season so far, officials said.

“We do expect to see influenza circulating for several weeks yet,” Dr Cuddihy said.

The number of people calling GP out-of-hours services over flu cases has seen a small drop in the second week of the year, compared to the previous week. “Sometimes that can be an early indicator of plateauing of influenza-like illnesses, but it’s too early yet to say exactly when this rate will peak,” Dr Cuddihy said.

The number of patients presenting to hospital emergency departments (EDs) has increased, compared to last year, putting pressure on the HSE winter plan.

Joe Ryan, HSE interim director of national services, said the number of ED attendances last week was more than 16 per cent higher than the same period last year.

The rate of admissions from emergency departments was up 11 per cent, compared to figures from the second week of 2018, he said.

“We are coping with the numbers in terms of the increased number of people attending, and increased number of people that we’re having to admit,” he said.

There were 1,070 delayed discharges from hospitals in the first two weeks of this year, a 12 per cent rise on figures from last year.

Delayed discharges occur where a patient is ready to leave a hospital bed, but is held up due to delays arranging appropriate care for them back in their own homes, or places in step-down facilities, or nursing homes.

The HSE is also making contingency plans to deal with a series of planned strikes by nurses over pay rates, due to take place in the coming weeks.