Ireland needs up to 200 extra ICU beds to meet EU average, says leading intensive care consultant

A leading ICU consultant said the country’s healthcare system needs up to 200 additional intensive care beds to treat patients and meet the European average.

r Andrew Westbrook, who is an intensive care consultant at St Vincent’s Hospital Dublin, said the country’s ICU system is under pressure every winter and is currently approaching “saturation”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Dr Westbrook said between 5pc and 10pc of people who enter hospital with Covid-19 will end up in ICU and the current high level of hospitalisations is worrying.

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“Just looking at the figures over the weekend, the number of patients admitted to our hospital with Covid has been steadily rising.

“Looking at the national figures there’s been a steady rise over the weekend, I think we’re now sitting on a 680 plus in the hospital system and 125 or 126 patients in intensive care. That represents about 40pc of the funded staffed bed stock in the Republic of Ireland which is pretty stark,” he said.

Dr Westbrook argued that rationing of care is already happening as a result, with a range a of elective surgical and diagnostic procedures either being cancelled or postponed in acute hospitals on a weekly basis.

“There’s definitely a backlog on all of that given what happened last year, particularly after the first lockdown. So, in that sense the care for those patients has been curtailed to prioritise the acute admissions and the acute admissions coming into the acute hospital system isn’t just Covid it’s everything else as well.

“So if you want to call that rationing, certainly elective procedures and surgeries are being cancelled or postponed,” he added.

In relation to the HSE’s intensive care system, which currently has 300 beds, Dr Westbrook described it as “under resourced” and said it should be increased to between 450 and 500.

“Whilst we have had a slight increase in capacity, we’ve had about 50 odd beds added to the bed stock in the last 18-months, we need about another 150 minimum or maybe even 200 so we get to just the average within the European Union,” he explained.

Dr Westbrook said this increased capacity would allow the health service to provide care for “more acutely ill patients”.

He added that more nurses and doctors are also needed to manage these beds and said strategically thinking is needed in the medium and long-term to improve the healthcare system.

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