Reid says some hospitals curtailing elective care due to surge in Covid cases

Head of HSE warns of difficult winter as 2,427 new coronavirus cases confirmed

The number of critical cases of Covid-19 has risen. Photograph: Alan Betson

Pressure created by the high level of coronavirus cases and increased respiratory illnesses on the health system has forced a number of hospitals to cease or cut back elective care, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said on Saturday.

Mr Reid said hospitals were facing huge demands with emergency care cases also going up as rising numbers of people presented for delayed care for Covid-19.

He said there was huge pressure on hospitals and this was forcing a number of them “to take decisions to cease elective care for some points of time – maybe not completely”.

Hospital Report

Mr Reid said there are 11 free adult intensive care beds nationwide and no no free paediatric ICU beds.


“We are beginning to see the pressure on the resources that is required to address Covid impact on non-Covid care, particularly elective care. A range of elective procedures are being cancelled.”

He said the hospitals affected included Limerick, Navan, Galway, Wexford and Cork. He said the children’s hospitals have also had to cut elective procedures.

On Saturday, the Department of Health confirmed a further 2,427 cases of Covid-19 in the State. Mr Reid said the HSE was working with private hospitals to secure extra capacity.

“We are roughly 1,100 beds per week using private bed capacity. We had just finalised a set of actions to address the rising numbers of waiting lists. We are still very anxious to do that.”

Mr Reid warned the surge in Covid cases was likely to make the coming winter one of the most difficult for the health service in many years.

Mr Reid said 93 people were currently in ICU which was a serious concern.

“That is 93 out of 296 beds at the moment.” He said 57 per cent of the people in ICU have not been fully vaccinated.

“Talking to consultants in intensive care they are seeing younger unvaccinated people in the thirty to forty age group and sadly some deaths under the age of 25.”


He issued an urgent call to those who are unvaccinated to present for their jabs.

“We really want to stress that this is a serious illness. You do have a higher level of protection if you are vaccinated. I guess my call to everybody is that we are in a difficult period but this can be turned around quickly and positively, he told Saturday with Katie Hannon, on RTÉ Radio 1.

The pressure on elective care comes at a time when waiting lists for people waiting be treated or assessed by a consultant have risen to 907,617, according to the latest data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). The figures represent an increase of almost 124,000 since August 2019.

As of 8am on Saturday, there were 449 patients in hospital with coronavirus.

Doctors have expressed concerns at the pressure the latest wave of Covid-19 infections is putting on intensive care units as hospitals are forced to cancel surgeries.

The rising number of critical Covid-19 cases has forced University Hospital Galway to turn its cardiothoracic ICU into a Covid ICU.

The lack of ICU beds has resulted in some elective surgeries in cardiac care and very high-risk surgeries being deferred.

Prof John Bates, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the hospital said it was "under some pressure" and the lack of ICU beds had resulted in some elective surgeries in cardiac care and very high-risk surgeries being deferred.

“The whole hospital at this stage is short of beds anyway because a number of wards closed because of Covid outbreaks,” he said.

‘Things are tight’

Enda O’Connor, ICU director at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, said about a quarter of the hospital’s ICU beds were occupied by Covid patients “so, not surprisingly, things are tight”.

“There is a high workload right across the system, from primary care and GPs to emergency departments and the ICU,” he said.

Prof Bates and Dr O’Connor said most Covid patients in their ICUs were unvaccinated.

“It is extremely rare to see fully vaccinated patients without significant immunosuppression coming into the intensive care unit,” said Prof Bates.

“The people who are getting the sickest Covid infections are patients who have not been vaccinated. If ever there has been a strong message to be vaccinated, that message is super strong now,” said Dr O’Connor.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, 10 further deaths of patients with Covid-19 were reported on Saturday. The North’s Department of Health also reported another 1,323 confirmed cases of the virus. – Addtional reporting: PA

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times