A new points system being introduced in Irish hospitals will see elderly patients being given less chance of receiving intensive care with ventilation according to documents seen by The Irish Sun.
The Saolta Hospital Group guidelines on assessing which patients should be given a mechanical ventilator and intubated were reportedly sent to hospital officials in UH Galway, Sligo UH, Mayo UH, Letterkenny UH, and Roscommon UH.
The Irish Sun reports that any coronavirus patient that scores more than eight points will not be sent to ICU, with those over the age of 80 hit with an automatic seven points.
The Covid Evaluation Scoring System is thought to be a means of determining which patients are unlikely to survive with the help of a ventilator, and will be used in situations when staff are unsure of how to assess the person’s current or pre-existing medical conditions.
The guidelines appear to ignore the Government’s Ethical Framework for Decision Making in a Pandemic, which warn hospitals not to exclude elderly people from treatment on the basis of age.
Male patients over the age of 50 are also given an extra point in the new system compared with women, making them less likely to receive intensive care. The number of points increase with age.
People with respiratory, neurological or heart conditions will also be given extra points, whilst disability campaigners have expressed concern that neither the government nor Saolta guidelines explicitly rule out weighing disabilities into patient evaluations.
The Saolta document claims that patients with a score of eight points or more will have “insufficient physiological reserve to survive intubation and mechanical ventilation to the point of hospital discharge”, making them more likely to be given an oxygen mask outside of ICU.
A spokesperson for Saolta told The Irish Sun: “All patients are given treatment based on their clinical need and the potential benefit of the treatment to the patient. These are the same principles that are used prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In a pandemic, while the ethical principles are the same, it is necessary to switch from a strictly medical ethics approach to decision-making (aimed at the individual level) towards a public health approach (population level) and this ethical framework takes cognisance of this.”
The HSE appeared to support the group’s policy when it responded to the Sun with the same Saolta statement.