Elective care to be suspended due to Covid pressure on hospitals – Reid

Hospitals are suspending elective care amid growing pressure on the health system from Covid-19, the HSE chief executive has said.

On Tuesday, Paul Reid said it remains unclear when Ireland would reach the peak of the current wave of the virus.

The Omicron variant has caused record numbers of cases in the State over recent days.

Mr Reid said hospitals would be suspending elective care, due to growing pressure from Covid-19.

“Many hospitals were already suspending elective care with the pressures they’re under,” he explained.

Confirming that the HSE will rely on the help of some private hospitals, he told RTÉ Radio: “The reality of it is we will have to suspend, in many cases, elective care.”

That decision, he said, will be monitored over the next two weeks.

The growing pressure is mirrored in the Covid-19 testing system, with senior HSE director Damien McCallion stating that there continued to be a “huge demand” for PCR testing.

He predicted the testing system, which now has a capacity of 650,000 tests a week when PCR and antigen testing is combined, will remain “under strain” for at least the next week.

Mr McCallion acknowledged the actual level of cases is probably much higher than what is being recorded by the PCR testing system.

“There are definitely higher numbers of the disease out there,” he said.

“We’re seeing this globally, with all testing systems under strain given the high transmissibility of this particular variant.”

Mr McCallion also confirmed there were 30,000 registrations on the first day of vaccine registration for children aged 5-11.

“I think what our experience tells us from looking at the 12-17 uptake is that it’s a much slower process, and we understand that because parents will want to have the information, they will want to talk to their child, consult with others, perhaps.

“And what we would encourage parents to do is to do that, to look at trusted sources of information – that’s really important.”

Mr McCallion’s comment came as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly tweeted new figures showing over 2.2 million booster vaccines have now been administered in the State.

Mr McCallion also said be believed Ireland had a sufficient supply of antigen tests, despite an earlier warning to the contrary from the Irish Pharmacy Union.

“We certainly have sufficient numbers on the supply chain through January. So we’re hoping that we’ll get through, but like all of our systems, as demand increases, that’s something we’ll have to track and monitor on an almost daily basis at the moment,” he said.