The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the HSE to reintroduce testing of patients for Covid-19 before they are admitted to hospital.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the INMO, told RTÉ News at One that the policy of testing patients before being admitted should be reinstated as valuable time was being wasted.
She said it sometimes took three to four days into a hospital stay before a patient was tested, during which time they were potentially spreading the virus in a congregated setting.
The recent Covid surge meant the number of patients on trolleys was the “worst ever” for June and was also higher than January, the time of year when hospital overcrowding usually peaks. “We were not expecting figures like this for June,” she said.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said health watchdog Hiqa had raised concerns about conditions at University Hospital Limerick where there was a risk to the care of patients and a lack of dignity because of high numbers on trolleys.
The current situation meant there was a very high risk of danger that needed to be dealt with, she added.
The INMO is also calling for the weekly publication of the number of healthcare staff out of work due to Covid-19, she said.
Her comments come as just under 200 deaths linked to Covid-19 were recorded in June, as Ireland experiences another surge in cases.
Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, said it was a “tough message” that people who contracted the Delta variant of Covid-19 last year now have no protection against infection.
He said people were being reinfected in the latest wave of the virus by the current Omicron subvariants BA4 and BA5.
Those who were unvaccinated or without a booster made up a “totally disproportionate” number of those in hospital with the disease, he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.
Dr Henry said that there were 812 people in hospital with Covid as of Friday morning, 300 of whom had not been vaccinated which was “totally disproportionate”. Those who had not been vaccinated had no protection, he said.
Half of those in hospital with Covid also had not received their booster, which again was disproportionate, he said. Even when people were not sick with Covid, but had tested positive, infectious measures had to be applied which was disruptive, explained Dr Henry.
Of the numbers in hospital, half were sick with Covid while the other half were in hospital for other conditions and tested positive for the virus, he said.
“We want to break the chain of transmission, hospitals are full of sick people, we need to get through to people who are not vaccinated,” he said.
The recent surge in Covid cases meant that the health system was seeing pressures on emergency departments usually seen only in winter, Dr Henry added.