Covid-19, winter flu and bed shortages: Irish hospitals face one of the harshest winters in history

A senior adviser has warned that acute hospitals are facing one of the toughest winters in Irish healthcare history, owing to renewed Covid-19 cases, the traditional winter flu and a chronic shortage of hospital beds, doctors and nurses.

University Hospital Waterford (UHW) Professor Rob Landers said the problem was not just due to the Covid pandemic, but years of underfunding and poor planning by successive governments, leaving Ireland with just 40 per cent of the average number of advisers in the EU Member States.

The problem is further exacerbated by population growth and the rapid aging of Ireland’s population.

Worse, Ireland also only has 40 per cent of the average number of acute care hospital beds.

“It will weigh heavily on us. We have waiting lists at an unprecedented level. We have a shortage of beds and a shortage of counselors. All of this combined will make it a very tough winter for Irish hospitals,” Prof Landers told WLRFM.

He said that despite the impact of Covid-19 on the healthcare system since 2020, Ireland’s acute care hospitals will still face another winter of bed shortages, staff shortages and unacceptable waiting lists.

“We’re worried about the winter – even more than last year,” he said.

“We are obviously emerging from a pandemic and are concerned that there will be a resurgence of Covid-19 in the winter.

“In addition, there will be a resurgence of common flu. That happened in Australia and they’re a season ahead of us.”

“They’ve just come out of their winter and it’s been a very hard one over there. Traditionally, we follow the pattern that’s happening in Australia, so there’s no reason to think it won’t happen here.”

Prof Landers warned that the government urgently needed to do something to tackle waiting lists and could no longer use Covid-19 as a cover.

“The hospital authorities are doing their best at the local level. You take the hospital here in Waterford – there are tremendous initiatives and people are thinking of new ways of doing things,” he said.

“We’ve done that for the last two years, we got through Covid-19. On the ground, people are working really hard to reduce the impact (on the patients) of the lack of resources.

“However, at government level, we do not see a plan to deal with this in the medium to long term. That’s a worry. This is nothing new.”

Prof Landers said the Irish health system urgently needs more hospital beds and more staff in the form of nurses, doctors and counselors.

“We have 40 percent of the EU average of consultants per capita and 40 percent of the EU average of beds,” he said.

“So until the government comes up with a plan to address both, I’ll be sitting here by this time next year talking about the same pressures and the same issues – only they’ll probably be worse.”

Waterford, Cork and Limerick have traditionally been three of the hardest hit areas for long waiting lists and acute hospital bed shortages.

Cork is still awaiting details of its proposed new hospital, while Limerick has secured a new 96-bed inpatient unit, but this will not be operational until 2024. Covid-19, winter flu and bed shortages: Irish hospitals face one of the harshest winters in history

Fry Electronics Team

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