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Covid numbers climb again in MUH

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Elective procedures postponed due to bed shortages

Anton McNulty

The rise in Covid-19 cases in Mayo University Hospital has resulted in a number of elective procedures being postponed and long wait times at its Accident and Emergency Department.
The latest HSE figures show that, at 8pm on Sunday, there were 31 confirmed Covid-19 cases in MUH. One of these was in ICU. On Sunday afternoon, the Saolta Group of hospitals released a statement saying that the increased number of Covid-19 cases was putting pressure on bed availability and that some procedures would have to be postponed.
“Mayo University Hospital is advising that the hospital is extremely busy today [Sunday] with long wait times at the Emergency Department.
“The hospital is seeing a significant increase in Covid-19 positive admissions and attendances, while also dealing with high volumes of non-Covid patients. Along with the ongoing bed pressures, this is resulting in long delays for patients who need to be admitted for treatment.
“The pressure on bed availability has also resulted in a number of elective procedures being postponed tomorrow Monday, March 14 and patients are being contacted directly if their procedure is being postponed.
“Outpatient, ambulatory and scope appointments are proceeding as usual and people should come to their appointments unless advised otherwise.
“The hospital acknowledges that delays in the Emergency Department and postponing procedures are very difficult for patients and their families and would like to apologise for the inconvenience and distress these delays cause.”
The hospital also asked the public to contact their GP during normal surgery hours or the Westdoc GP Out of Hours service in the first instance if their health problem is not urgent.

Holiday concerns
Covid-19 cases have increased significantly in recent weeks following the lifting of restrictions, with many schools around the county recording large absentee numbers.
Castlebar-based councillor Michael Kilcoyne, who is also a member of the HSE Regional Health Forum, expressed concern at the rising numbers in hospital and the toll the lifting of restrictions is taking on the health system.
“The numbers are rising clearly and the pandemic has gone from the front pages and [been] replaced by the war. It [the lifting of restrictions] has made it worse because there is nobody wearing masks. The Government have said you don’t have to wear masks … maybe the masks should have been left in place for another while. I know people are fed up wearing them but if you end up in the hospital you will have plenty of time for wearing them.
“I would be worried that it is going to get worse following St Patrick’s Day because there will be a fair bit more drinking and a lot more people in close proximity to each other.
The knock-on effect will mean people will be waiting longer on trollies, which is not good enough.
“The service at the hospital is poor when there isn’t beds and people even waiting in ambulances to get in. We are in March now, I think we could be like this to June because there is little to convince me that it is going to change. I would be concerned about it,” he said.

Sounding the alarm
Cllr Kilcoyne added that it is ‘clear’ that the Emergency Department in MUH is too small to cater for the number of people using it. However, he also said that GPs and Westdoc have a responsibility to do more to ensure they see their patients when they call.
“Ringing a doctor and not getting an appointment, or them saying if ‘You are bad go to the hospital’ is not good enough. I do believe there is more GPs and Westdoc can be doing,” he said.The Irish Nurse and Midwife Organisation (INMO) warned that high numbers of patients in our hospitals without a bed and cases of Covid in hospitals is having a significantly negative impact on the ability to provide timely and safe care.
“INMO members have been sounding the alarm on the rise of trolley numbers since mid-summer, and we also urged caution on the removal of mandatory mask wearing in public spaces,” said INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
“The HSE and political system have a responsibility to the exhausted workforce to ensure their workplaces are safe. There must be no tolerance for hospital overcrowding while a highly transmissible airborne virus is making its way around our hospitals. Improvements to air quality in our hospitals must be a priority.”

Out of control
“If non-emergency services need to be curtailed in order to allow the HSE and hospital groups to get a handle on out-of-control trolley figures and Covid cases within the hospital system then that must be done,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha continued. 
“The HSE has a duty as an employer and as a service provider to take the necessary steps to scale up capacity. The current state of our health system is extremely concerning. It is now time for the Minister to attend the ED taskforce and to ask the HSE to put in place realistic short-term pressure-relieving measures.”

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