Galway’s University Hospital is now the most overcrowded hospital in the country after several internal Covid-19 outbreaks.
On its worst day last week, up to 54 patients were left with no beds, according to a report from The Galway Daily.
The news comes mainly against the grain of the country’s fight against Covid, with a new wave of restrictions lifted this week and more on the way.
Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland, the CEO of Saolta University Health Care Group, which manages hospitals in the west and northwest, talked about why Galway’s healthcare infrastructure is under such duress.
“All the appropriate measures that can be put in place are being put in place across all of our hospitals, but nonetheless, when Covid numbers in the community tend to rise, the numbers in hospitals also tend to rise, and so do the numbers of outbreaks in hospitals,” he said.
With so few resources available to treat patients, the hospital is forced to return to turning away patience with non-urgent conditions, similar to what they did during the height of the pandemic.
The issue is not just isolated to Galway either.
Letterkenny University Hospital is the second most overcrowded in the country, with 48 patients waiting for beds at one point last week.
There are 373 patients awaiting care in hospitals across the country, according to a report from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The overload has led Canavan to temporarily restructure the hospital system in the west and northwest.
“The next step will be that we will use our main ICU in Galway University Hospital as the Covid-19 ICU, and we’ll switch over to that one.”
By using UHG as the region’s central Covid ICU hub, Other hospitals will have more capacity for non-Covid patients, who currently make up the majority of those waiting for a hospital beds around the country.
With winter approaching, the hospital organisation needs to start mobilising now, Canavan said.
“One of the real concerns that we have is that as the winter progresses and as respiratory illnesses increase within the community that in addition to Covid-19, we will also see a greater attendance of people’s respiratory illness at all of our hospitals, including Letterkenny, and that will put further pressure on an already pressurised system,” he said.
Several university hospitals around the country saw significant, temporary additions during the height of the pandemic to cope with the overwhelming demand for space. However, most temporary facilities had closed by the end of the summer, leaving hospitals back at their standard capacity.
Devin Sean Martin