The crisis facing our hospitals this winter is down to the Government’s slow and ‘really cack-handed’ strategy throughout the COVID pandemic, according to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.
The latest restrictions announced by Government include a new midnight closing time for restaurants, bars and nightclubs and new advice for people to work from home where possible.
Yesterday, a further 4,650 COVID cases were announced with the number of patients in ICU up 21.5% on the same day last week.
Meanwhile, there are real fears at Government level that further restrictions will be needed in the coming weeks.
On The Pat Kenny Show’s Friday Forum this morning, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the Government has failed on four key levels: Hospital capacity, the booster rollout, antigen testing and ventilation.
“The Government’s approach has been really cack-handed,” he said. “We have had €9 meals. We have had planes coming from Northern Italy and Cheltenham. We have had clothes being considered non-essential and now we have nightclubs that are going to close at midnight – I mean these are now shifting to 6pm to midnight opening hours.
“It is just really hard to fathom that we are facing into a Christmas which such a level of crisis in our health services.”
Deputy Tóibín said increasing healthcare capacity should have been the key aim since the pandemic began.
“Right now, we have 300 ICU beds functioning in this State, according to Paul Reid this morning,” he said.
“In 2009, the HSE said there should 579 ICU beds in this space. So, outside of a pandemic, just in normal times, nearly double the amount of ICU beds should exist in this State.”
He noted that Ireland has the fourth-lowest number of hospital beds in OECD, despite having one of the highest spends on healthcare.
In 2018, Germany had eight hospital beds for every 1,000 people, while Ireland had just 2.3, according to the EU’s ‘Health at a Glance’ report.
By 2020, Germany had increased its available beds to nine per 1,000 while Ireland had three beds per 1,000.
“We are 20 months into this crisis,” he said. “We have spent €40bn on COVID-related issues.
“We have had the longest and most severe and most costly lockdowns in the whole of Europe. We now have the highest rates of inoculation and yet one of the highest rates of the illness.
“One of the keys to addressing that is hospital capacity – and it is necessary anyway because we have one million people on waiting lists.”
The Aontú leader said the slow booster rollout is especially frustrating.
“In Israel at the end of July, it was quite clear that booster shots would be needed,” he said. “In the States at the end of August, we saw that vaccine efficacy was starting to decline.
“NIAC then made a decision in mid-October in relation to this and we saw by the end of October there was 2,500 staff who were vaccinated yet they were at home because they had caught COVID.
“It was then November 5th – just a fortnight ago – before the HSE actually got it together to roll this out.
“Now there are 4,500 staff in the hospital sector who are at home. It is just so frustrating that the wheels of Government have moved so slowly on this.”
'Lost the dressing room'
Also on the show, Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh said the Government had now “lost the dressing room” on COVID restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Chair of Fine Gael's Parliamentary Party Richard Bruton said the current numbers are very worrying – and the new measures introduced this week are necessary.
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