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Number of Covid patients in hospital tops 800 - highest since January – as Limerick hospital cancels visits over outbreaks

Patient waiting lists continue to grow as hospitals struggle to clear backlogs


(Stock image)

(Stock image)

(Stock image)

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital has jumped to 808, the highest since early January.

There are 47 patients with the virus in intensive care which has remained relatively steady over the past week.

It comes as University Hospital Limerick issued a complete visitor ban on Monday due to multiple Covid-19 and flu outbreaks.

It is unclear how many patients with Covid-19 in Irish hospitals are there due to complications of the virus or were diagnosed after admission with another illness.

The number compares to last Friday when 670 Covid-19 patients were in hospital of whom 43 were in intensive care.

Another 2,383 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported today in addition to 4,760 people registering a positive antigen test through the HSE portal yesterday.

Overall more than 20,000 positive PCR and antigen tests have been reported on Friday, Saturday Sunday and today.

Face masks are no longer mandatory since last Monday although they are strongly advised to be worn on public transport and in healthcare settings.

Although hospital patients may not be directly admitted due to Covid-19 complications they still require to be isolated once diagnosed which causes problems for hospitals and slows down the flow of work.

Hospitals are currently trying to call in patients on hospital waiting lists, to be seen and treated, following a serious backlog arising over the last year.

Eimear Conroy, an orthopaedic Surgeon at University Hospital Kerry, said today that the chronic lack of orthopaedic consultants, available hospital beds, and theatre operating space are the main causes of the unacceptable delays in providing care.

This is resulting in very serious consequences for patients.

There are currently over 11,700 patients nationally waiting for orthopaedic surgery and 76,000 waiting for an orthopaedic outpatient appointment.5 This represents an increase of 24,700 (48pc) over the past 7 years, and of 7,300 (11pc) since the beginning of the pandemic.

In Kerry alone, Ms Conroy said, there are more than 2,000 people waiting for an orthopaedic outpatient appointment.

“Having someone wait for more than eighteen months to be seen so that we can provide them with a solution is heart-breaking,” said Ms Conroy of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.

"Excessive wait times can lead to the development of chronic pain. If a patient with a rotator cuff injury hasn't used their arm properly for a year, they'll have a huge amount of dysfunction, making recovery from any intervention extremely difficult. People in these situations definitely have worse outcomes, on top of a standard nine to 12-month recovery.

"I recently had a lady in her eighties who, until six months ago, had been living independently.

"Debilitating hip arthritis means that she now walks with her frame, has lost her ability to drive, and needs home help for activities of daily living.

“Being able to see her in a timely fashion in outpatients and provide a hip replacement for her may well have prevented the significant deterioration she experienced.”

It comes as University Hospital Limerick issued a complete visitor ban on Monday due to multiple Covid-19 and flu outbreaks.

The hospital also confirmed that people attending its emergency department were experiencing “long waits for non-urgent care“ due patient overcrowding.

There were 84 patients on trolleys in the hospital’s ED and on wards, making it the most overcrowded hospital in the country.

The UL Hospitals Group said it regretted to announce a ban on inpatient visitors “for the next number of days, while the hospital manages multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 and influenza across the site”.

“Seven wards are currently affected, and on the recommendation of our outbreak teams the decision has been taken as a precautionary measure in the interests of patient and staff safety, and we apologise to all patients and their loved ones who will be impacted,” it added.

“All appropriate infection control precautions are being followed to minimise the risk of spreading infection among staff and patients in the hospital, and also within the wider community. The situation is being monitored and reviewed daily, and we will relax the restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Exempted visits - limited to one person per patient - included parents visiting children; people assisting confused patients (e.g. dementia); people visiting patients who are critically unwell or at end of life.

The hospital group was also asking people “not to visit inpatient relatives or loved ones outdoors in the grounds of the hospital, as this can also present infection transmission risks”.

A hospital spokesman said it was “continuing to experience exceptionally high attendances at its Emergency Department (ED), with daily attendances across the past week averaging approximately 232 patients”.

“These patients are presenting with more severe and complex illnesses than heretofore, and a higher proportion of admitted patients are requiring longer stays for treatment and recovery,” he said.

“We continue to work our Escalation Plan in managing this continued surge in demand for emergency care, but long waits for non-urgent care in the Emergency Department are inevitable.”

The spokesman asked that patients seeking “non-urgent care, should consider all available care options, including family doctors, local pharmacies and out-of-hours GP services” rather than the hospital’s consistently overcrowded emergency department.

“Injury units in Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals are open 8am-8pm, and in St John’s 8am-7pm, seven days a week. These units are for the treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns.”

“However, please note that if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk, the ED will assess and treat you as a priority,” said the hospital spokesman.

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