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Concerns over ICU provision with just eight beds available in Louth

OLOL Drogheda
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.

There are major concerns over the healthcare systems’ capacity to deal with a surge of Covid-19 cases expected in the coming days and weeks, specifically in the provision of beds in Intensive Care Units nationwide after a report from the European Centre for Disease Control suggested that Ireland was in risk of being overwhelmed by the pandemic.

There are just eight such beds in Louth – all of them at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. They are a mixture of Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Unit beds for medical and surgical patients. According to the ECDC, Ireland has just 5.6 beds per 100,000 people – just half of the average across the European Union.


The report warns that ’emergency wards and intensive care wards are likely to exceed capacity very rapidly’ if requisite surge capacity plans are not in place to deal with an increased demand for care of with moderate or severe respiratory distress.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 1,564 positive cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and as of midday on Monday, there had been 16 confirmed cases detected in county Louth. Nine people have died from coronavirus in Ireland.

In February, the Irish National ICU Audit Report for 2018 was publishing, indicating that a shortage of critical beds across Ireland is leading to delays in admission to ICU for patients, which increases the severity of their illness and affects eventual chances of survival.

The report called on the increase in number of ICU beds to be quickened but the HSE plan, before the unprecenented Covid-19 crisis, was to increase the number of ICU beds to 430 by 2031. The 2018 audit put the number of ICU beds in 2018 at 249, down from the 2017 figure of 255.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda had been one additional ICU bed added in 2018, according to comparisons between the 2017 and 2018 findings.

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