Deluge of patients as flu virus expected to peak this week
Nurses are braced for a deluge of patients at hospitals around the country as the flu epidemic peaks this week.
David Hughes, deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the epidemic - which led to record numbers of patients on trolleys in hospitals last week - is expected to peak on Wednesday.
The prediction comes after the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reported on Thursday that the number of reported cases of flu-like illness had "increased significantly in the past week".
About 20,000 people with flu and other respiratory viruses swamped GP surgeries up and down the country last week, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Some 500 people with flu and other respiratory viruses such as colds were admitted to Ireland's eight major hospitals.
However, the figure does not take into account flu patients attending 40 other smaller hospitals.
Although the HSPC said the flu is expected to circulate "for the next four weeks at least", the INMO expects it will peak on Wednesday, creating more misery for staff and patients.
"We're expecting the worst," a spokesman told the Herald last night.
"The system is already under pressure and because it's such a contagious flu, it will put a lot more pressure on the system.
"Containing the flu and not having it spread in hospitals is the big challenge."
The HSE was last night unable to say what plans were being put in place to reduce the spread of flu in hospitals and cope with hospital overcrowding.
However, Mr Hughes said it would be wise for all hospitals to ban visitors as a precaution.
In the meantime, the INMO fears that nurses will start coming down with flu due to exposure to the virus and the strain they are under caring for patients in cramped conditions.
"That is a real risk which would deplete staff even further," he said.
"People are starting to feel the strain, and burnout is a real problem."