Previous measures needed to prevent health system being overwhelmed – consultant

System can’t cope with predicted Covid demand for ICU beds, says Dr Catherine Motherway

An intensive care consultant has said measures similar to those taken during previous Covid-19 surges are needed in order to prevent the hospital system from being overwhelmed.

Dr Catherine Motherway, of University Hospital Limerick, said the system can't cope with the level of demand for ICU beds that have been predicted in new modelling scenarios.

"We need to look at what worked the last time round," she told the Claire Byrne Live programme on RTÉ. "We know what worked the last time and we do need an abrupt halt. We need the tap turned off."

The former president of the Intensive Care Society said the vaccination programme had been very successful but it had not been the "magic bullet that we thought it would be".

As well as continuing with the vaccination programme “we also need to continue what we had done with the last number of surges, and we need as a population to get clear messaging as to what we can and what we can’t do”.

Prof Sam McConkey, an infectious diseases specialist with the Royal College of Surgeons, said we can’t have the level of socialising that occurred in December 2020.

“We realised afterwards that that was a huge error, and what I’m really saying is that we shouldn’t do that again.”

Whether it was new Government restrictions, or the population voluntarily reducing the level of contact that was needed, he was not sure. But if people did not do it themselves, then clearly the Government needed to act.

Prof McConkey said the vaccines were very effective at preventing people getting the disease, but less effective at stopping people transmitting the virus on to others.

"We can say now that vaccination alone won't stop Covid in Ireland. We need other measures."

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent