Irish hospitals “will not cope this winter” amid a so-called “twindemic” of COVID-19 and flu, the Secretary-General of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization has warned.
Every winter, the demand for medical care increases when people get sick with the flu. But the HSE is concerned that a combination of the flu and COVID-19 could send about 20,000 people hospitalized.
“We expect our hospitals – which are already overcrowded – will not be able to cope this winter,” said Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization Newstalk breakfast.
“That’s why we’ve asked for early agreement with private hospitals so we can make sure acute services aren’t so overwhelmed that you, as a patient waiting for a procedure today, get a call saying, ‘Sorry, we don’t have one bed and cancel your procedure.”
“We believe this can be managed better and that the private hospitals in this country must be encouraged to be part of the overall health service this winter to ensure that at least the elective admissions cannot be cancelled.”
Ms Ní Sheaghdha also said that the crisis is “predictable” given the already overstretched nature of the healthcare system and that a brain drain from the HSE is exacerbating the problem:
“We don’t have an oversupply of nurses,” she explained wearily.
“We are actually quite small and so the graduates are very important to staffing our wards and keeping beds open.”
She went on to say that many young Irish nurses join the UK NHS where pay and conditions are considered superior:
“We know the UK has a serious shortage of nurses and they are making very attractive packages available – accommodation and extra bonuses if they work in and around big cities.”
This is particularly tempting given the depth of Ireland’s property crisis:
“We believe that housing costs are now so high that it will be impossible for people starting on a low salary to find housing in and near hospitals where they are urgently needed,” continued Ms. Ní Sheaghdha gone.
“And in view of the housing shortage … this of course also affects nursing students as well as new graduates and qualified staff.”
Main image: ICU nurses caring for COVID-19 patients. Image by: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa