Only 12 hospital beds left for children and no intensive care beds free, warns HSE

High number of children with breathing difficulties being admitted

Covid patients taking up a significant proportion of intensive care beds. Photograph: iStock

Covid patients taking up a significant proportion of intensive care beds. Photograph: iStock


Only 12 hospital beds are available for children throughout the country, while no intensive care beds are free, the Health Service Executive is warning.

A surge in Covid-19 and respiratory illnesses is heaping further pressure on the health service, with 10 hospitals marked as “red” because of the numbers of people seeking admissions, said Anne O’Connor , chief operations officer at the HSE.

Paediatric services are “under very significant pressure” as a high number of children with breathing difficulties are being admitted, in a development suspected to be linked to low immunity because of last year’s lockdowns.

On Friday, there were 13 children languishing on trolleys in Crumlin children’s hospital.

“A lot of children are presenting with respiratory illnesses,” said Ms O’Connor.

“We didn’t really see that last year because children weren’t mixing as much, they weren’t in school as much and now they are back.

“Some medics would say their immunity is different this year because they weren’t out getting some of these infections last year.”

Many are being brought to hospital with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus which can cause bronchiolitis.

With rising Covid 19 cases and admissions adding more strain to the health service overall, there are 103 adult hospital beds free countrywide but only 12 for children.

There are 12,000 overall acute hospital beds.

There are 23 ICU beds available for adults, but no intensive care beds available for children, Ms O’Connor said.

“Our hospitals are under significant pressure and have been this week and indeed last week,” she added.

Covid patients were taking up a significant proportion of intensive care beds.

Ten hospitals described as “red” because of high attendances include Galway, Tullamore, Cork University Hospital, Mayo, St Vincent’s (Dublin) and Kilkenny.

The increasing Covid admissions means hospitals “can’t do other things”, while staff shortages — with 1,800 healthcare workers out with the virus or because they are a close contact — were also adding to pressures.

Ms O’Connor said the scale of the stretched resources is normally only seen at the height of the flu season in January.

“It is only October and we have a long winter ahead of us,” she said.

Ms O’Connor told RTÉ’s News at One that the HSE still has a “safety net” agreement with private hospitals — which ends in January — and are using about 1,100 bed days every week from the sector.