Republic of Ireland news

Republic's biggest hospital has no Covid patients for first time during pandemic

St James’s Hospital in Dublin has no Covid patients
Cate McCurry, PA

The Republic of Ireland’s biggest hospital has no patients with Covid-19 for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, the HSE chief executive has said.

Paul Reid said it was “remarkable” that St James’s Hospital in Dublin has no Covid patients after dealing with a high number of cases earlier this year.

“It grew rapidly during January and February,” Mr Reid said.

“But we must always remain cautious.

“We don’t need to look much further than the UK and much further back than yesterday when they had over 7,500 cases.

“On our vaccination programme, it continues at a really great pace.

“There are now over 3.1 million vaccines administered and over 2.2 million people have received their first dose.

“Over 1.1 million people have received a second dose and are fully vaccinated, so about 26% of people are fully vaccinated.

“Some 57% of the population have received their first dose.”

He said the vaccination uptake remains strong across all age cohorts.

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said the news that St James’s Hospital has no Covid patients is “huge”.

“They were a site that came under huge pressure.

“Going back last year, a huge number of their staff were really just working in Covid wards, they had their Covid and long-Covid pathways,” Ms O’Connor said.

“So when you look at the huge pressure on the hospital on maintaining that number of Covid areas and the impact that had on other people.

“The peak of the Covid time was the fact that we had people who were Covid positive throughout the hospital and that meant capacity was not available for other people.

“So that balance of Covid and non-Covid care is clearly not an issue now.

“They still have to take precautions because Covid hasn’t disappeared.

“The fact they are running a hospital without having people who are Covid-positive is really significant.

“It’s significant for patients who are in the hospital but equally the relationship between Covid numbers in hospitals and higher rates of community transmission.

“We always said where you have higher number of Covid numbers in hospitals, inevitably it is related to higher numbers of community transmissions.”

Mr Reid also said that at its peak, staff at the hospital were treating families suffering from Covid-19 in hospital wards.

“It was very difficult for them to see any light out of this and at the time you could see the stress,” Mr Reid added.

It also emerged that the HSE is not in a position to say when the vaccination registration is opening for people aged 30 to 39.

Mr Reid said they will know by next week when they can provide a date for that age cohort.

He added that he wanted to be cautious and not open the registration “too early”.

Mr Reid also said the impact of the recent cyber attack is still felt “profoundly” on health services.

He added that the HSE is managing the “extreme risk” across many of its healthcare settings.

“It is very difficult for us still in many of our hospitals as we scale up the systems,” he added.

“We still do not have interconnectivity between hospitals.

“Staff continue to work hard to mitigate the impacts and I want to thank them for that.

“But the road to recovery on this is long and over many weeks to come, but we will do everything we can to protect and provide services to patients.”

He also said there are a rising number of people attending emergency departments and appealed to people who are not facing emergency health care issues to see a GP or pharmacist.

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