HSE’s Paul Reid says there is a ‘race to save lives’ in hospitals as 77,300 vaccinated against Covid-19

Currently 1,792 people in hospital with coronavirus, an 80 per cent increase in a week

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the number of people in ICU with the same illness is “unheard of” for healthcare staff who are struggling with the surge. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the number of people in ICU with the same illness is “unheard of” for healthcare staff who are struggling with the surge. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A total of 77,303 Covid-19 vaccines have already been administered, with 69,378 vaccinations going to frontline healthcare staff, HSE chief executive Paul Reid has confirmed.

A further 47,600 vaccinations are planned for next week and among these will be 3,900 receiving their second vaccination.

The figures were confirmed as Mr Reid stated the HSE has effectively reached its intensive care unit limit and is using its surge capacity.

As of Thursday morning, 287 ICU beds in public hospitals were filled with 169 of them being Covid-19 patients.

There are currently 302 ICU beds in the system with 31 available for adults and six for children.

Mr Reid told the weekly HSE briefing on Covid-19 that along with the 169 patients in ICU, of whom 100 are being ventilated, 210 are receiving advanced respiratory support in Irish hospitals.

There are currently 1,792 people in hospital with Covid-19, an 80 per cent increase in a week and more than double the record numbers in April.

University Hospital Limerick has the most patients at 150, followed by Cork University Hospital with 143 and Galway University Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda with 130 each.

Mr Reid said the number of people in ICU with the same illness is “unheard of” for healthcare staff who are struggling with the surge.

He described the situation in Irish hospitals as “grim” and about to get worse before it gets better.

“Our teams are working around the clock. It is in all senses a race to save lives in all our hospitals,” he added.

He said there were increasing examples of young people with no underlying conditions presenting in hospital along with their families whose members have caught the disease together.

He referenced the experience of Bernie Waterhouse, a clinical nurse manager in St James’s Hospital who on December 29th was the first healthcare worker to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. He said she was managing one ward with six Covid-19 patients in early December but was now dealing with well over 100 Covid positive patients in five wards.

Mr Reid said that up to Sunday evening, 57,481 people were vaccinated comprising of 53,971 healthcare staff and 3,500 in long-term care facilities.

The HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said Covid-19 is still active in the community though there has been a drop in both the positivity rates of covid tests and the number of close contacts of confirmed cases have fallen below three.

He said 188 people were admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours and an average of 20 every day were admitted to ICUs.

Dr Henry said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is now considering whether or not it is necessary to vaccinate people who have already had Covid-19.

It follows a study by Public Health England which stated that prior infection was as good as a vaccine in generating antibodies against the virus.

Other countries have taken the decision to deprioritise or not to vaccinate people who have had the virus before.

“That decision if it is made in this country will be done through the governance of NIAC who are considering this. There are live questions coming through to us all the time,” he said.

“At this point in time, for those who are actively sick with Covid, the vaccine in contra-indicated for four weeks afterwards.”

HSE national clinical lead for older persons Dr Siobhan Kennelly said 33 deaths out of 73 reported in a two day period were among patients in nursing homes.

She said it was a considerable number, but mortality in nursing homes is not as bad as it was during the first wave.

There has been a “huge amount of learning in terms of the clinical care for very frail people in nursing homes”, she told the briefing.

“There is a massive amount of credit due to GPs and to colleagues who are supporting these outbreaks.”

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