The Minister for Health recently revealed that almost all fully vaccinated patients in intensive care units have an underlying condition. Stephen Donnelly has also said the programme to deliver boosters to all residents in long-term residential care is “substantially complete”. With over 630,000 COVID booster jabs having been administered by Tuesday, people with underlying health conditions may avail of the programme next week.
“Most of the immunocompromised have either had a booster vaccine or have been offered a booster vaccine,” Donnelly said. “About half of our healthcare workers and half of those in their 70s have now received a booster vaccine. One group that I’ve been very keen to have the booster vaccine made available as quickly as possible is those with underlying conditions.”
Mr Donnelly said he is delighted to be able to work with the HSE to put plans in place, “such that those with underlying conditions will start being offered the booster from next week”.
“This is cohorts four and seven from the initial booster campaign, and it’s very important,” Donnelly said. “Over 80% of our COVID ICU patients have an underlying condition and, for our vaccinated COVID ICU patients, the figure is 98%. Ninety-eight percent of them have underlying conditions, so obviously this group is essential in terms of keeping people safe.”
There has been “very, very encouraging” evidence mounting on boosters from Ireland, Israel, and the UK. However, Mr Donnelly said the epidemiological situation happening in Ireland is quite concerning. Addressing the Private Hospitals Association Conference, the Minister for Health said society has been impacted by the continuing high transmission rates. He feels that the growing case numbers are “continuing to place an unsustainable strain on our health services.”
Further into talks, the Fianna Fáil minister vowed to produce an increase in the number of beds within Intensive Care Units to 340 by 2023. Describing the situation as “completely inadequate”, Mr Donnelly said Ireland had only 255 critical beds in ICU before the pandemic. The Minister said improvements can be made as a “total of €52 million was provided this year to fund an additional 66 permanent beds.
Mr Donnelly added that forty-two of those are now open, “bringing our baseline critical care capacity to 297 and more will be open before the end of the year. The HSE has been funded to increase critical care capacity by the end of next year or early into 2023 to 340 beds. Beyond the immediate targets, we propose to develop new critical care facilities at five prioritised sites at Beaumont, St James, the Mater, St Vincent’s and CUH (Cork University Hospital). A total of 117 additional will be added. That’ll bring the total permanent base capacity to 446 beds.”