Covid-19 surge leaves Letterkenny University Hospital at 'full stretch'

Large increase in number of staff off due to Covid-19

Visiting restrictions remain in place at Letterkenny University Hospital

Manager Séan Murphy said the hospital is having to restrict other services due to the demands of staffing ICU

Letterkenny University Hospital is at “full stretch” as it deals with a rise in Covid-19 cases and a large number of staff off due to the virus.

Manager Séan Murphy said the hospital is having to restrict other services due to the demands of staffing ICU. 

There were 51 confirmed cases at the hospital on Wednesday night, an increase of ten in 24 hours. Four cases were being treated in critical care and the hospital had no critical beds available, HSE figures released on Thursday show. 

The hospital has deferred all but very urgent and time-critical inpatient and day surgery due to the increase in Covid-19 cases. 

Mr Murphy said recruiting specialist staff for ICU is one of the hospital’s biggest challenges and staff are being deployed from theatre and day surgeries to support ICU. 

“As we increase the demand in ICU we restrict other scheduled services. We have a plan to deal with it but it comes at a cost which means other patient treatments are not going ahead,” he said.

“Covid being a series of unknowns, you can get spikes quicker than otherwise might happen.”

He said there are plans in place to increase beyond the current ICU capacity.

“I am conscious that the resources that we have already allocated are working at full stretch at the moment. We know what we will do if the demands increase but obviously, it means as we are already having to do, we restrict other services.”

On Tuesday 170 staff were off due to Covid-19 and the number of staff off due to the virus has more than doubled in the last week to ten days, he said.

The biggest increase has been in the number of staff off due to being close contacts with Covid-19 cases. 

“That has virtually trebled since the week before Christmas,” he said.

“That puts us under a significant degree of pressure.” 

The vaccination of staff began on Wednesday. Mr Murphy said he expected around 500 of the hospital’s 2,000 staff to have received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine by the end of the week and that several hundred would vaccinated per day next week.

The vaccination of staff at Letterkenny University Hospital has begun as the hospital deals with an increasing number of Covid-19 patients which has seen staff relocated to provide extra ICU capacity.

Hospital manager Séan Murphy said yesterday that he expected around 500 of the hospital’s 2,000 staff to have received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine by the end of the week.

The vaccination programme started following a significant increase in the number of staff off due to Covid-19.

Forty-one confirmed Covid-19 cases were being treated at the hospital on Tuesday night. There were four Covid-19 cases in critical care with no further ICU beds available, HSE figures showed. 

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