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McNamara warns of ‘calamity’ ahead at UHL

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*Photograph: John Mangan

A Clare TD has warned that “a calamity” is on the cards with just 23 critical care beds provided across the country since the onset of COVID-19.

Questioning the Taoiseach in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Michael McNamara (IND) pointed out that just over half of the promised amount of critical care beds had been put in place in the Republic of Ireland despite the urgency of a global pandemic.

“At the start of the year, this country’s permanent adult critical care capacity was 255 beds. Funding was provided in March for an additional 40 adult beds and two paediatric beds. Have those beds and units now been built? Are they ready for this autumn as we face into winter,” McNamara asked.

Referencing previous engagements with former Minister for Health Simon Harris (FG) where it was acknowledged that overcrowding “would be a disaster this winter” at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) if additional capacity was not found or if surrounding tier two hospitals such as Ennis General Hospital, Nenagh General Hospital and St John’s Hospital were not allowed to facilitate more procedures, “Instead of that happening, all surgeries were cancelled a couple of weeks ago at Ennis Regional Hospital”.

He warned that the cancellation of all elective procedures at UHL last week put further pressure on waiting lists and would led “to deterioration of quality of life, as well as affecting life expectancy in many cases”. The Scariff native also insisted it was time for public health dentists, speech therapists and other trained professional now involved in taking swabs for COVID-19 tests to return to their traditional posts, an argument that the Taoiseach agreed with.

Latest figures according to the Taoiseach stated that 278 adult critical care beds were open and staffed across the country. “There are, without question, significant pressures in University Hospital Limerick and the Mid-West,” Martin stated.

McNamara warned that the predictions issued from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) did not inspire confidence for the winter season at UHL. “The shortage of critical care beds was the most significant shortage that we had in this country relative to others. Of the 40 funded six months ago, if I understand the Taoiseach’s figures correctly, only 23 have been provided, a little over half. It seems nothing concrete is planned for UHL other than aspirations. I appreciate that the Taoiseach is three months in office, but these were three months when we were looking down the barrel of the gun of a winter crisis which, hopefully, will not arise.

“If the medics and the predictions by NPHET are incorrect, it will not happen. If they are correct, then we are facing a calamity and we need to move. We do not need to hear much more about plans. We need delivery and the delivery over the past six months does not inspire confidence in what can be delivered”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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