There are concerns that the Delta variant of Covid will heap even more pressure on struggling emergency departments.
Just two days ago management at Letterkenny University Hospital was forced to implement the full capacity protocol at its emergency department.
There are ten patients with Covid-19 in Letterkenny University Hospital today, with none in ICU.
Now a leading emergency medicine consultant has said the Delta variant will add even more pressure to normal waiting lists.
Dr Fergal Hickey called on the HSE to create “alternative pathways” for patients presenting with conditions that were not strictly emergencies.
“Many emergency departments over the last three to four weeks have set new records for daily attendance. Given that these are new records, they’re actually higher than the level we would expect to see over the winter period,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“If you add the effect of the Delta variant to that, that’s going to make it even more difficult – at the moment we cannot achieve social distancing in most emergency departments, it’s simply impossible as a result of the numbers and therefore the situation is dangerous.
“It will just become more dangerous if we have more patients arising from the Delta variant.”
He explained that there were four categories of patients who present at emergency departments, two categories were acutely unwell patients or people who had been injured.
There were two further categories – people who had “run out of road,” who had not been able to access a GP and those who had been referred by a GP as they could not offer them treatment because of the pandemic.
For those who have a problem that was untreated as a result of the pandemic, the HSE needed to look at creating alternative pathways for those patients because the option of sending someone self presenting to the emergency department really did not solve the problem, he said. “They need to look at that.”
Dr Hickey added that another way to ease pressure on emergency departments was for “maximum possible vaccination.” He cautioned that there were some people who thought they would not be impacted by Covid.
“We know that 10% of those who suffer from Covid end up with this condition Long Covid, which is both very debilitating for patients, but also will have a massive impact on the health service down the road.”
“People needed to follow the advice from the beginning of the pandemic, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance, he said. “They’re more important than ever, it seems ludicrous that our nearest neighbour across the water that they’re deciding to ignore all this science and basically return themselves to what they would consider to be normal.”