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Q&A: What happens to sickest patients once they are moved for treatment in intensive care wards


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Q. How many patients who have been hospitalised with the new coronavirus have needed admission to an intensive care unit?

A. Around one in seven who are hospitalised end up in critical care. As of midnight on Sunday there were 5,593 confirmed cases here, 1,345 have been hospitalised, and 194 put in intensive care.

Q. Obviously critical care is for the most severely ill. What actually happens in these units?

A. The units have a range of equipment including a ventilator to help the patient breathe. There are IV lines, pumps, feeding tubes, catheters and monitoring devices. The patient is offered support until they recover and they are closely monitored. They may need to be sedated.

Q. If patients are suffering pneumonia, one of the effects of the coronavirus, how are they treated?

A. They may be put in a hood or tightly fitting mask. Oxygen is delivered at higher pressure to keep airways open.

Q. Do we know how Irish patients are responding in intensive care?

A. As the pandemic progresses, we are learning more. Figures released yesterday show 147 patients are in intensive care. Some 27 people have died in intensive care so far. The good news is that 53 patients have made it through and been discharged.

Q. Do we know the ages of people ending up in intensive care with the virus?

A. More than a third are over the age of 65 with a quarter in the 55-64-year age group. Younger people have also been treated in intensive care here.

Q. How long do patients with the coronavirus have to stay in intensive care on average?

A. It takes around two weeks or longer to get better.

Q. For those who will not survive, despite the best efforts of hospitals, is it particularly difficult for families who cannot say a traditional goodbye?

A. Dr Catherine Motherway, an intensive care specialist in Limerick, has said that because of the infection risk, relatives are having to find ways of saying goodbye. A very small number of family may be allowed in or to say farewell through Skype. Staff may make memory books and are doing their best to be with the patient and ensure they are comfortable at the end.

Q. Are the intensive care units in some hospitals full?

A. The Mater in Dublin had all intensive care beds occupied yesterday, although it also has access to high dependency beds. Hospitals in Dublin in particular are under pressure and have concern about a lack of trained staff.

Q. So if the surge comes, will there be enough intensive care beds?

A. The HSE said there are 138 free beds. It has scaled up in preparation for a potential surge but it is unpredictable.

Irish Independent