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‘We’re out on our feet, it is carnage here’, nurses warn

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Cork University Hospital

Cork University Hospital

Cork University Hospital

Medical staff have been battling to cope with the "carnage" in hospitals since Christmas because of the explosion in Covid-19 cases.

One junior doctor said that nurses, medics and support staff in Cork University Hospital (CUH) are now "out on their feet" exhausted trying to cope with the combination of soaring cases and having to work longer as staff stay home ill.

A staff member at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) - which recorded the most Covid-19 cases of any acute hospital - warned that they felt "overwhelmed".

UHL had the highest number of confirmed cases (142) of any hospital in the country followed by CUH (139), Galway University Hospital (127), St Vincent's Hospital Dublin (123) and Drogheda Hospital (110).

Only three critical care beds were left available at UHL.

Twelve seriously ill Covid-19 patients were being treated at the 28-bed critical care unit.

A UL Hospitals spokesperson confirmed there were "a total of 574 staff across UL Hospitals Group unavailable for work due to Covid-19".

More than 4,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Limerick over the past two weeks.

CUH is one of six acute hospitals struggling to cope with more than 100 Covid-19 cases.

A total of 1,686 patients are being treated in hospitals for the virus.

Crisis

At one point, more than 140 CUH staff, including 100 nurses, were off work having either tested positive or having been a close contact of a positive case.

A further 14 hospitals have each got 50 or more cases.

The CUH junior doctor - who asked to be unnamed - said staff were called to a meeting and briefed that they were now facing "the peak crisis of the entire pandemic".

"There are times you look around and you wonder how much more pressure the system can take. You can see the strain on the faces of doctors and nurses," they said.

"It has been very tough. It was tough last April when the first wave peaked but this has been something else."

Even medical rotations have effectively been suspended as doctors struggle to cope with soaring patient numbers.

"The commitment of doctors, nurses, hospital support staff and managers has been incredible, but you can see the toll it is taking on everyone," the source said.

"I left a ward a few days ago and went into a store room to find a nurse crying.

"I still don't know if it was exhaustion, stress or worry about a loved one with Covid."

Junior doctors have borne the brunt of the pandemic third wave by working longer hours, taking extra shifts to cover for sick colleagues and postponing leave.

"A few of my classmates opted to work as junior doctors in Australia and New Zealand and their work demands are like night-and-day compared to ours.

"When I chat to them on social media and explain what it has been like here since Christmas, they just can't believe it.

The UHL staff member admitted the situation was challenging. "The last two weeks it has gone ballistic. There are areas of the hospital full of Covid patients.

"We have doubled down on numbers; in corridors they are on top of one another.

"It's impossible to maintain social distancing in the ED, and staff are demoralised and overwhelmed," they added.

Some 2,400 staff across the group's UHL, Ennis Hospital and University Limerick Maternity Hospital facilities have received the first of two vaccine doses.

"Ultimately, the vaccine will be rolled out across all hospitals in UL Hospitals Group," a UL Hospitals spokesman said.


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