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Warning over rising Covid-19 cases as patients in hospital rise

Warning over rising Covid-19 cases as patients in hospital rise

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Minister for Health has warned about rising Covid-19 cases after the number of patients in hospital almost double in less than a fortnight.

Stephen Donnelly said it has soared to over 300 patients with Covid-19 from around 160 a week and a half ago.

Figures from the Department of Health shows a sharp rise since the end of May.

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned it could be the start of a Covid “summer wave”, while Mr Donnelly said they are watching the figures closely.

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“What we’re seeing is a very significant increase in a very short period of time. What concerns me is that when you look at previous patterns of hospitalisation, they spiked very, very quickly,” Mr Donnelly said on Friday.

“Now thankfully, because of the vaccine programme, and because so many people participated, even in the Omicron wave, the numbers in intensive care and the numbers who became really, very sick and the mortality levels stayed thankfully low.

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“However, we still had an awful lot of Covid patients in the hospitals, and that leads to cancellation of elective care, which has huge knock on effects for non-Covid patients.

“As you know, dealing with the waiting lists now is an absolute priority.

“So the advice I have is that whilst the mortality rates and severe illness rates would likely stay low, if we are looking at another substantial increase in hospitalisations, that of course has an impact on our efforts on waiting lists and on elective care.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin. (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said around one third of those eligible for the second booster have taken it and urged those over the age of 65 to get their second booster.

Mr Donnelly also said that no questions have been raised within his department about the possibility of bringing in restrictions.

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly said he would also like to see the planned €1,000 bonus payment for healthcare workers paid quicker.

Around 74,000 frontline workers are still waiting on the bonus, which is a mark of their contribution during the pandemic.

The bonus was announced by Government earlier this year, but thousands of healthcare workers are still waiting on the payment.

Mr Donnelly said some 26,000 HSE staff have received the bonus, with further payments to be made in the next fortnight.

 

“The HSE is moving quickly in terms of the fortnightly payroll to get everyone who’s eligible,” Mr Donnelly added.

“We’d all like to have seen it happen quicker. However, one of the reasons it has taken this time is that there was a very important interaction with the representative bodies.

“The unions quite rightly engaged with the department, engaged with the HSE to tease out exactly what staff would get.

“It’s very clear that the nurses, the doctors, the health and social care professionals, the porters, all of those providing direct patient assistance and care would get it. One of the questions quite rightly asked was, well, what about the cleaning staff? What about the catering staff? What about the security staff? What about all of these people?

“The government position, my position is unambiguous on this, which is yes, absolutely.

“Anyone who’s working, be they employed directly by us, they must be included.

“Those conversations went on until mid April, and then the HSE published the detail around that.

“Since then, the HSE has been moving now.

“The payments then to the voluntary sector, and to the organisations like home care provider, that is being progressed as well.

“However, the Department and the HSE need sight to know that the payments are being made to those eligible staff to make sure that is happening properly and the right amounts are being transferred and the right people are getting it.

“There is more work because it takes longer to do that administratively than our own people.

“I have been advised that we’re going to see an awful lot more now as the fortnightly payroll occurs.”

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