Ireland is coming into winter. The HSE is coming under increasing pressure. The government is threatening a “circuit-breaker lockdown” to deal with what they say is a looming crisis.
But is this pressure a unique crisis spawned solely due to Covid? Gript investigates.
1. 2019 – Irish hospitals at “breaking point” due to “killer flu” season
In December 2019, Simon Harris as Health Minister held an emergency meeting with HSE chiefs over the fact that half of all ICU beds were occupied by winter flu patients.
Harris said at the time that there was “no doubt that this is going to put significant pressure on our health service.”
The Irish Mirror, among other news outlets, reported how Irish hospitals were at “breaking point” due to a “killer flu season.”
Irish hospitals at breaking point after unexpected early arrival of killer flu seasonhttps://t.co/26vgv9XAmB
— Irish Daily Mirror (@IrishMirror) December 28, 2019
2. 2018 – “Perfect storm” will see over 1,000 people on trolleys this winter
In October 2018, the Irish Medical Organisation warned that a lack of emergency department resources, beds and recruitment were creating a “perfect storm” in Irish hospitals, and that over 1,000 hospital patients would end up on trolleys during the winter.
“We will be told in January that it is a ‘flu crisis’ or a ‘winter crisis’ – it is not. It is a failure of policy,” said IMO President Dr. Peadar Gilligan.
As reported by the Journal.ie at the time, “Winter is traditionally a busy period in hospitals, with a spike in seasonal illnesses and injuries adding extra strain.”
'Perfect storm' will see over 1,000 people on trolleys this winter, IMO warns https://t.co/a7TDkWZkKG
— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) October 30, 2018
3. 2017 – “This is the winter our health system will finally collapse”
In October 2017, the Irish Times published an article by Dr. Muiris Houston, their health analyst, describing how the health system was on the verge of collapse.
This is the winter our health system will finally collapse https://t.co/rePdfVMjpF
— Irish Times Opinion (@IrishTimesOpEd) October 23, 2017
Why exactly? Houston explains:
“Our public health service is already dangerously understaffed and doesn’t have enough beds in the system. Our population is ageing. And we are weeks away from the arrival of…a severe influenza outbreak against which the current iteration of the flu vaccine is likely to be woefully ineffective.”
According to Houston, “the writing has been on the wall for more than a decade” for the HSE, “yet governments of different hues have failed to intervene appropriately.”
“We have failed to expanded primary care services to compensate for the 1,400 acute hospital beds closed in the last 10 years.”
4. 2016: One patient a day dies FROM LACK OF ICU BEDS
A leading emergency medical specialist, Dr. Fergal Hickey, warned in October 2016 that as many as 350 patients per year – or one a day – may have been dying at that time due to lack of ICU beds.
Moreover, Hickey said that another 300 were needlessly dying because of the trolley crisis.
— Orla Tinsley (@orlatinsley) October 1, 2016
Speaking to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, he said that while Ireland spends more than most countries on healthcare, our results were “quite consistently poor,” with a lack of intensive care beds leading to major surgeries being cancelled.
Additionally, Dr. Tom Ryan, president of the IHCA, said that the hospital trolley crisis was set to get worse in winter of 2016 and that a “potential calamity is looming” – a calamity that could be sparked by a major flu outbreak.
5. 2015: HSE aims to cap number of people on trolleys at 236 per day
In November 2015, the HSE had a goal of capping the maximum “acceptable” number of people on trolleys at 236 on any given day as an aspirational goal.
HSE plans ‘national threshold’ on overcrowding https://t.co/lERqbHpWwB
— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) November 30, 2015
“Ideally, there should be zero trolley waits,” according to internal HSE documents, “but clearly the system is not at this level of performance.”
Patients on trolleys due to bed capacity overload was seen as an unavoidable inevitability.
Now €40 billion later, and following the longest, harshest lockdown in Europe, the health service is once more in jeopardy. And, to listen to our government, this is a freakish new disaster which we’ve never seen before, due solely to Covid.
They want to blame the people for the straining of the health service. They’d like to blame young people, unvaccinated people, people having parties, the hospitality sector, schools. If they could, they’d probably blame Donald Trump and the Catholic Church, or say it’s because of some rare alignment of the stars – anyone and everyone is at fault but themselves.
The HSE is always in bits around winter time, and has been for over a decade, long before Covid-19 even existed.
The Irish people have been more compliant than almost any Western country from the start of the pandemic, following every ludicrous rule the government put before them, like €9 substantial meals and 2km travel limits. They’ve received the vaccine to the tune of around 95% – greater numbers than almost any other European country – and did so enthusiastically. People are already lining up to take booster jabs. People have done everything that was asked of them and more.
If the government then impose a lockdown on this country’s citizens, punishing them by depriving them of their fundamental freedoms, all to cover their own failures, it will be among the biggest disgraces this country has seen in modern times.