The HSE has established a National Crisis Management Team to manage a surge in winter virus infections in Ireland.
The team will operate to maintain services during the current flu outbreak this Christmas.
A high number of hospitalisations are expected over the coming weeks due to the continuing rise in the number of cases of Covid-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
The HSE is concerned that we may see over 900 patients in hospital with flu in the first week in January with that number likely continuing to rise further into January.
There are approximately 1,200 people currently hospitalised with respiratory conditions. There are 635 Covid-19 patients in Irish hospitals as of yesterday, including 31 in Letterkenny University Hospital.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Breda Smyth has warned that a “respiratory virus storm” is brewing in Ireland. Earlier this week, Prof Smith appealed to people to wear masks on public transport and avail of flu vaccination and Covid-19 boosters.
“It is important that we use all the tools that we have in the toolbox to help us to respond to this challenge with regards to flu and Covid,” Prof Smyth told RTE News.
The National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) has met twice this week and will operate throughout the Christmas period.
HSE CEO Mr Stephen Mulvany said: “We are working to ensure that every available resource is mobilised and utilised to respond to the needs of our patients who are seeking urgent and emergency care.
“We would also urge all those eligible for and due to be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said the HSE crisis group is too little, too late.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “We are disappointed that the HSE has once again waited until the crisis, which was predicted in July, was in full flow to establish a crisis management team. We firmly believe that this group should be meeting daily, not three times a week.
“The INMO has sought confirmation that managers will be available to frontline staff at all times over the Christmas and new year period to deal with the non-clinical issues that are associated with a crisis of this nature.
“Nurses, midwives and other essential healthcare workers should be supported in every possible way over what is going to be an incredibly difficult few weeks.
“The HSE must be prepared to provide them with whatever essential resources they need including additional staff until the end of February at the very least.”