A leading intensive care specialist says she 'devoutly hopes' the health service won't need to use its ICU surge capacity during the current wave of coronavirus cases.
It comes as the number of COVID-19 patients in Irish hospitals has now passed its first wave peak.
Figures this morning show 921 people are being treated for the virus in hospitals - a higher number than at any other point during the pandemic.
It includes over 100 new admissions in the last 24 hours.
With 921people in hospital, we've now exceeded the peak level of the 1st wave (881).75 in ICU. Healthy people are getting very sick. Everyone gets how serious this is now. Let's all do what's needed, turn this around, save lives, whilst the vaccine arrives. We have to. @HSELive
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) January 6, 2021
There are currently 75 COVID-19 patients in intensive care - a number which remains below the mid-April peak of 155.
Figures released by the HSE yesterday show there were under 30 ICU beds vacant across the public hospital system.
Earlier this week, HSE CEO Paul Reid said there was surge capacity in the system for up to 450 intensive care beds if needed - compared to the normal capacity of just over 300 beds.
However, Dr Catherine Motherway - former President of the Intensive Care Society - told Newstalk Breakfast that surge capacity is not a situation staff want to be in.
She said: "When you talk about surge capacity in ICU, you talk about a bed that isn't normally staffed with experienced personnel.
"We do have the equipment, but you talk about transferring staff from other areas who have some baseline skills but do need significant support.
"We know from other jurisdictions - in particular our neighbours - that surge capacity doesn't have as good an outcome as your standard ICU capacity."
Dr Motherway said the health service can and will use surge capacity if needed, but it would mean a significant impact on other health services as well.
However, she stressed health workers will "absolutely do our best to cope with whatever comes at us... what I want is for it not to come at us".