More than double the number of people are in hospital with Covid compared to the peak of the first wave in April last year.
The latest figures from the health service show 1,838 Covid patients are in the State’s hospitals, up 88 from the same time on Wednesday.
During the first wave of the pandemic, the number of Covid patients in hospital peaked at 881 on April 15th.
The stark figure comes as hospitals have been ordered to treat the current Covid-19 surge as an “emergency situation” by suspending all non-urgent work and escalating the discharge of patients “with immediate effect”.
With intensive care capacity expected to be used up by the weekend, the HSE has told hospitals to minimise patients’ length of stay and facilitate their discharge “to the fullest extent”, as well as using the private sector to maximise capacity.
In a letter to senior managers seen by The Irish Times, HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry says hospitals are “under pressure” due to the high number of Covid-19 patients and associated high staff absenteeism.
Urging staff not just to focus on the peak of this surge, he says it is important to understand that “because of the volume of cases and the longer-than-average times patients spend in hospital there will be a slow downturn in the numbers in hospital” afterwards.
By next Monday more than 2,000 Covid-19 patients will require hospital care, Dr Henry forecasts. More than 220 of these patients will require critical care, easily using up remaining capacity in the system.
Despite a record 172 patients in intensive care units on Wednesday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said “some early signs of progress” were being seen, with daily case numbers and positivity rates falling. However, he added there was “a long, long way to go”.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has called on the Government to fully nationalise capacity in private hospitals.
The Irish Examiner reports of growing concern among Government TDs that the deal with private hospitals has taken too long to be agreed and does not go far enough to secure beds.
Senior sources told The Examiner there was now a belief among some ministers that the deal should be sped up and broadened immediately.
Ministers are also said to be raising concern at the level of pay offered to student nurses, which is below the rate paid at the start of the pandemic. Government TDs have questioned the “fairness” of asking student nurses to begin placements during the “worst of the pandemic”.
A further 63 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported on Wednesday night, the highest daily total since April. The National Public Health Emergency Team also reported 3,569 new confirmed cases.