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Minister launches drive to recruit medical staff as number of cases near 300

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Cars in the tunnel in Croke Park yesterday as people availed of the drive-through coronavirus test station

Cars in the tunnel in Croke Park yesterday as people availed of the drive-through coronavirus test station

Cars in the tunnel in Croke Park yesterday as people availed of the drive-through coronavirus test station

A further 69 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a new daily record for positive cases.

It brings to 292 the number in the Republic who have now tested positive.

As a result of the growing numbers, Health Minister Simon Harris has launched a massive new recruitment drive for healthcare staff to help in the fight against the virus.

Doctors, nurses and support workers are all invited to apply and will be placed on a panel to be called upon as permanent workers fall ill or need to go into self-isolation as a result of the virus.

Swabs

Meanwhile, it has emerged a large backlog of patients has been waiting days for virus test results due to a dwindling number of swabs.

The HSE said it expects a new consignment of 30,000 tomorrow and the backlog will be cleared shortly.

HSE chief Paul Reid said the recruitment campaign was aimed at qualified healthcare workers, including medical, nursing and therapy staff who would go on a panel and be hired as the crisis escalates, with more full-time employees at risk or self-isolating.

He said work had already secured additional ventilators for hospitals, which would be needed to provide breathing support for coronavirus patients who are seriously ill and had suffered lung failure.

It could secure an additional 100 ventilators a week if the demand jumps.

He said there were now 500 intensive care beds secured.

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A car enters Croke Park in Dublin where a Covid-19 testing station is up and running

A car enters Croke Park in Dublin where a Covid-19 testing station is up and running

A car enters Croke Park in Dublin where a Covid-19 testing station is up and running

It is also planned to secure beds for patients in private hospitals, a valuable resource which the public system could utilise.

GPs expect to be flooded with calls from the public today asking for tests and worried about symptoms.

Private patients who phone their GP about the virus will not be charged under a deal reached with the Irish Medical Organisation. There remain concerns about the number of patients who are ringing the emergency 999 or 112 call numbers.

The HSE said a large backlog of patients suspected of having the coronavirus are waiting days for tests despite having potential symptoms.

They need to ring their GP if they want to be risk-assessed for troubling symptoms.

The patients may be at risk of infecting others if they do not self-isolate while waiting for the result as instructed.

A shortage of suitable viral swabs is causing the delay.

When a patient phones their GP, they are assessed and depending on the doctor's verdict they can be referred electronically to give a swab at a testing centre.

The delay is emerging between the GP referral and getting an appointment.

Once they give the swab, there is another wait of a day or more while it is analysed at a lab.

Dr Colm Henry of the HSE said the delay would not affect the person's outcome but it could cause anxiety.

He appealed to the public to be patient and said the backlog would be cleared shortly.

Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private nursing homes, has appealed to people within our hospitality and retail sectors to look for opportunities that will present in providing care to older people during the coronavirus emergency.

A spokesman said that staffing needs will arise for nursing homes in meeting the care needs of older people, with the disciplines in nursing homes being wide-ranging.

"Roles on a temporary basis that may interest people could include those of healthcare professionals including nurses and physios, healthcare assistants, catering activities, ancillary or administrative support," they said.

It has informed Mr Harris of "the unparalleled challenges Covid-19 presents with regard to healthcare staffing which will similarly present for nursing homes across the country".

Chief executive Tadhg Daly said short, medium and long-term contracts could be offered by nursing homes, as well as some flexible working arrangements.

Meanwhile, several hospitals were forced to curtail non-emergency surgeries and outpatient appointments this week due to the coronavirus crisis.

A&E consultants have warned the demands on emergency departments in the coming weeks will be enormous.

Dr Emily O'Connor, of Connolly Hospital Dublin, said attendances at Ireland's emergency departments by patients with respiratory symptoms can be expected to increase rapidly.