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'Tsunami' fear for HSE as death toll doubles

 

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Eva Redmond is greeted by her mother Deirdre after arriving into Dublin Airport. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Eva Redmond is greeted by her mother Deirdre after arriving into Dublin Airport. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

Eva Redmond is greeted by her mother Deirdre after arriving into Dublin Airport. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The number of deaths in Ireland from coronavirus has more than doubled in just one day, with 10 reported last night.

It brings the total death toll from the virus to 19.

The number of cases of the virus has risen by 255 - bringing the total to 1,819.

The average age of the patients who died is 79. They include three women and seven men, with nine of the fatalities in the East and the other in the South.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said he expects to see more deaths.

"If the number of cases increases, the number of deaths will increase," he said.

"Still, in relative terms, it is a small number."

Struggling hospitals will be overpowered if the surge in the sickest coronavirus patients becomes a tsunami, a leading doctor has warned.

Dr Catherine Motherway, an intensive care specialist, said hospitals could cope with "a wave" of patients needing the highest level of care after contracting the virus.

But they would be overpowered if the rapid increase turns into a tsunami, the University Hospital Limerick doctor said.

In a direct appeal to the wider population, she said people had it in their power to slow the escalation in patients needing the highest level of hospital care by following emergency measures, including staying at home, maintaining physical distancing and following handwashing rules.

Virulent

"Italy has had a difficulty and Wuhan has had a difficulty and now Spain," said Dr Motherway, president of the Intensive Care Society of Ireland.

"This is a virulent disease but without controlling the surge nobody need think a specific number of beds will fix it."

Extra critical care beds alone will not avert a crisis.

The HSE insisted it has spent weeks building up capacity for coronavirus patients needing the highest level of care.

It has increased the number of critical care beds from around 225 to 500 and this will rise to 700.

A report from the European Centre for Disease Control warned that, based on the 220 intensive care beds in place before the virus hit Ireland, its hospital critical care capacity would be "overwhelmed" in the event of a large surge.

The centre said the hospital crisis here would erupt if 18pc of hospitalised patients with the virus - on a par with the Lombardy region of Italy - needed intensive care.

The Medical Council said 121 doctors have rejoined the medical register as part of the call to arms to help out in the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly half are coming out of retirement and the rest are returning from abroad to support hard-pressed front-line colleagues.

Children's Health Ireland (CHI), which oversees the three children's hospitals in Dublin, said it was relocating acute paediatric services from Tallaght Hospital to Crumlin and Temple Street.

Services will also transfer to the paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown.

Evaluations

CHI said its contingency planning for the Covid-19 period is based on patient safety risk evaluations, maintaining essential paediatric services for specific paediatric patient groups and according to the limitations of staffing numbers and expertise.

While children and young people are vulnerable to Covid-19, the viral infection appears to be less severe in children than in adults.

It means the closure of acute paediatric services, such as inpatients, day cases, out-patients and the paediatric emergency department in Tallaght, from midnight tonight.

CHI reassured patients and families that its two other Dublin hospitals, Crumlin and Temple Street, are open, including their 24-hour emergency departments for all emergencies.

So too is the Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital for minor injuries or minor illnesses, which is open between 10am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

"As part of our plan to move together to the new children's hospital, we have already commenced cross-city ways of working so this temporary transition of services from CHI at Tallaght will be done in a safe, patient- centred manner through close collaboration," a spokesperson said.

"We are ever grateful for the co-operation, commitment and dedicated efforts being undertaken by staff across CHI to temporarily consolidate services in the best interests of our patients, our staff and all our families."