"No doubt" health system heading into difficult winter, says HSE chief 1 month ago

"No doubt" health system heading into difficult winter, says HSE chief

It comes as Ireland is seeing an "uncomfortably high" level of Covid-19 cases.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) Dr Colm Henry has said there is "no doubt" the health system is heading into a difficult winter.

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As it stands, a number of restrictions are set to be lifted on Friday, 22 October yet in the past few days, a number of Government heads have cast doubt on the planned reopening due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

On Friday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Ronan Glynn said Covid incidence has risen across most counties and age groups, including in older age groups, and that the country was seeing a "deteriorating picture".

Appearing on the Brendan O'Connor show on Saturday, the HSE CCO was asked if the "high anxiety" about Ireland's Covid-19 situation was justified.

In response, Henry said that Ireland is in a "much better position" than previous surges of the virus due to the high uptake in vaccines and the protection they offer against serious illness.

O'Connor then asked if Henry was confident the health system would not become overwhelmed, to which the CCO replied: "We're heading into a difficult winter, there's no doubt about that."

The HSE chief explained that the health system heading into winter is also in a different position than during previous surges.

"Last year, we configured our healthcare system almost to be a Covid only healthcare system.

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"Now, we're delivering acute care, unscheduled care. We're trying to catch up on waiting lists, we're trying to restore normal services.

“We’re running a Covid-configured service because our emergency departments still have to be mindful that anyone coming in with a fever or cough could have Covid until proven otherwise."

He added that while the risk in terms of the numbers of Covid cases translating through to hospitalisations and ICU admissions is "greatly weakened" with vaccines, he is worried about the health service because it's delivering a "Covid-configured service".

"At this point in time, we're seeing an uncomfortably high level of cases," he told the programme.

"They're not translating as badly as they used to in terms of a conversion to hospitalisations.

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"But nevertheless, we still have people out there unvaccinated. We still have people out there who are vulnerable.

"We want to reach them and we have those additional groups we now have to reach with a booster vaccine.

"If I use that metaphor - the flood wall, there's breaches happening all the time. We have to plug them to keep us all safe."

The government is set to make a final decision on the easing of restrictions on Tuesday.

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Main image via Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland