Hospitals told in letter from Reid to focus on Covid care for coming fortnight

Previous notices to hospitals have come during surges that prompted restrictions

HSE chief executive Paul Reid has told hospitals to prioritise urgent Covid care for a period of two weeks, as the hospital system struggles to deal with the impact of the latest Covid wave.

In a letter sent to Chief Executives of Hospital groups on Thursday, Mr Reid said there was now a need for a 14 day period of “prioritisation of unscheduled Covid-19 care and urgent time-sensitive work”.

It is the third time in the last six months that the health service has issued a system-wide diktat to downgrade the priority given to non-Covid care - on each previous occasion, this occurred during a Covid wave that saw the introduction of wider societal restrictions.

Previous letters were sent at the start of November last year, during the height of the Delta wave, and then again during the first Omicron wave this January.

Mr Reid also told hospital executives that when manpower issues arise, staff must be redeployed to support urgent work “even where this results in curtailment of work that is not time-sensitive”.

He also has told the hospitals to use the SafetyNet deal with private hospitals to “support the transfer of urgent and scheduled care patients including maximum use of ICU beds”.

“The increase in Covid-19 cases over the past two weeks has yet again placed our healthcare systems under great pressure, both from the continued impact of cases being hospitalised and from the growing staff shortages related to Covid-19 infections,” he wrote.

He pointed to an increase of seven per cent in Covid cases in the last seven days, with the number of patients with Covid in hospital up 29 per cent in the week to March 23rd. Numbers in ICU have grown by 25 per cent.

There have been 27,568 attendances nationally in Emergency Departments. “This isn’t surprising with the high level of transmission of the virus in the community and the easing of restrictions, which is having a significant impact on ED attendances and hospital admissions,” he said.