Parents are being urged not to send children to school with any new symptoms.

Flu season ‘has not yet peaked’

The Government has accepted that Ireland does not have an adequate number of acute hospital beds and needs thousands more.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said his department needs to “go further” than the 2,400 beds specified by the Sláintecare programme, of which just 1,000 have been delivered so far.

“I fully acknowledge and the Government fully acknowledges that there’s a lot more capacity to add,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, parents are being strongly urged to keep children home from school and childcare facilities if they are displaying new symptoms of illness.

The warning came from Chief Medical Officer Prof. Breda Smyth yesterday, Wednesday, amidst record numbers of patients waiting for hospital beds around the country.

Prof. Smyth said the re-opening of schools and childcare facilities this week creates an environment for increased respiratory virus transmission.

She said Ireland is currently experiencing high levels of flu and Covid-19. She also said that although cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) appear to be decreasing, the 3 respiratory viruses accounted for more than 1,200 hospitalisations last week.

This is placing significant pressure on healthcare resources, particularly hospital emergency departments and GP services.

Prof. Smyth warned winter viruses spread easily from person to person and the public should help reduce the spread of infection by practising good respiratory etiquette, cleaning hands, wearing masks on public transport and in crowded places, and ensuring good ventilation where possible.

Prof. Smyth said: “This year’s flu season has not yet peaked. If your child has any new onset flu-like symptoms such as congestion, cough, runny nose or high temperature, parents should continue to be mindful of others and, if possible, keep their children at home from school or childcare facilities.

“Children should be kept at home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have fully or substantially resolved.

“The vast majority of respiratory illnesses can be treated successfully at home with over-the-counter medication. There is very good advice on the HSE website

“However, parents should trust their instincts and seek medical attention if required.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has released its end of year figures for patients waiting on beds in 2022.

The figures show CUH was the 2nd most overcrowded hospital in the country last year with a total of 12,439 patients forced to wait for a bed. University Hospital Limerick was at the top of the list with 18,028. Yesterday, Wednesday, the INMO confirmed 838 patients were on a trolley in Irish hospitals.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “We again repeat our call for the current approach of telling people just to avoid hospitals to cease. The focus should be on providing supplemented emergency supports until the end of February.

“It is time for the Government to call this what it clearly is – an out and out crisis. A crisis warrants an extraordinary response from Government and the HSE.”

A statement from CUH read: “Hospital management have requested that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP/South Doc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the emergency department if their needs are not urgent.”