Flu kills first patient of the winter as 19 children left waiting on trolleys for a bed
A hospital patient has become the first person to die from flu in Ireland this winter as two more were admitted to critical care with the virus.
The death comes as flu levels increase and hospitals are braced for the trolley crisis to escalate in late December and early January.
The level of flu circulating remains low, but 11 patients were admitted to hospital last week with the virus.
There is traditionally a spike in flu around Christmas due to an increase in travel from abroad and more people spending time indoors.
The main strain of the virus circulating is swine flu and it is having an impact mostly on children.
The age of the patient who died has not been released.
Separately, some 416 patients were waiting for a bed yesterday morning, with University Hospital Limerick, Letterkenny Hospital and Cork University Hospital worst hit.
There were 19 children on trolleys in Dublin children's hospitals yesterday morning, according to the HSE's own figures.
The lack of beds had led to some surgery on children being cancelled last week.
The HSE's winter plan, which is now under way, aims to free up as many hospital beds as possible by arranging home care packages and other step-down supports.
But it is unclear if it will be enough to prevent a repeat of the major congestion suffered by patients last year.
The HSE yesterday appealed to the public and staff in hospitals to clean their hands properly in a bid to prevent the spread of infection. "Things that look clean often have billions of bacteria and viruses so you can pick them up from touching most surfaces," Professor Martin Cormican, HSE national lead for antibiotic resistance, warned.
"Studies show that bugs from faeces are found on lots of surfaces such as money, bar snacks, shopping bags, computer keyboards, mobile phones, wrist bands, ice cubes, kitchen taps, cleaning cloths and surfaces in your kitchen," he added.
"So you can see why it is really important that you clean your hands well with soap and water and then dry them on a paper (or clean) towel."
Meanwhile, members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action, in protest at the continued failure of the Government to bring forward realistic proposals to address the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing.
Nurses voted 95pc in favour of industrial action in the ballot, which followed the rejection by the PNA of the proposals by the Public Pay Commission report in September to address the recruitment and retention issue.
PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said they would "now reflect on the ballot outcome and present a plan for industrial action to a meeting of the PNA board, which meets on January 10 next".
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation will also announce today that its members have balloted in favour of industrial action.
No threatened disruption would take place until early in 2019.