According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, stronger public health advice around mandated mask-wearing must be offered amid a surge in RSV and other respiratory illnesses.
This comes as 534 patients are without beds in Irish hospitals today.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said:
“We are once again calling on the Chief Medical Officer to issue stronger public health advice in relation to mandated mask-wearing. It is or view that it is the responsible thing for policymakers and Government to do at this vital juncture when hospitals are not coping and people’s lives are at a higher risk.
“We know that there is a surge in the spread of RSV, particularly in the Midwest. Our hospitals, especially those in the Midwest and on the Western seaboard, cannot sustain additional pressure from avoidable illnesses.
“It is time for stronger advice on simple and inexpensive measures such as mask-wearing and handwashing. It shouldn’t be this difficult to issue strong advice in this regard when we are being warned about rising cases of flu, RSV and new COVID variants. Recent evidence from the USA has confirmed that new COVID variants are leading to increased hospitalisations.
“We know that we will be seeing continued pressure on our acute hospital system until the end of February at the very least. While we have seen decreases in those on trolleys in some of our larger hospitals, we are seeing high numbers of patients on trolleys in some of our smaller hospitals which is having a devastating impact. There must be no relaxation of the curtailment of non-elective care at this point.
“National agreements have been brokered since 2016 to maintain patient and staff safety in our emergency departments. It is clear that this is not being honoured in many hospital sites at this time. The HSE must insist that hospitals follow the lead of sites like Waterford University Hospital in ensuring that all measures that can be taken to drastically reduce overcrowding are implemented.”