Consultant says people in their 30s dying with virus

November 2021 RTE ;A Professor of Anaesthesia and Consultant in Critical Care at Beaumont Hospital has said previously healthy people aged in their 30s are dying each week with Covid-19.

Professor Ger Curley said around 60% of patients who are presenting to hospital during this fourth wave of Covid-19 are unvaccinated and tend to be younger.

“There are deaths in this group of patients, there are deaths every week, their deaths are a particular tragedy. It is severe disease and death is preventable with vaccination,” he said.

He said the deaths include those in their 30s who were previously healthy.

“This is a very real illness and you are not invulnerable to severe disease from Covid-19,” he added.

There are 130 confirmed patients in ICU countrywide and it is putting huge pressure on the system, he said.

He said nursing staff are leaving and will continue to leave unless proper supports are provided for them, and unless there is an ICU system that has adequate numbers of beds, staff, equipment and infrastructure.

“We don’t need incremental change, we need a fundamental change in the intensive care infrastructure in our country,” Prof Curley said.

He said 500 ICU beds are needed to bring Ireland up to the OECD average.

Earlier, the head of the intensive care unit at University Hospital Limerick said that half of the hospital’s ICU capacity is involved with caring for Covid-19 patients and scheduled operations are being cancelled.

“We are stretched and operating on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr Catherine Motherway.

She said the Covid patients include older patients with underlying problems and a younger cohort of patients who are presenting with severe Covid disease.

If we could reach that group, she said, and explain that vaccines will help prevent severe disease, it would make a huge difference.

“They have come to the ICU because they’re not vaccinated. And if we could get at least to that group.

“If we could explain to people who have yet to be vaccinated: if you’re young and relatively healthy, and you have a vaccine and you have been vaccinated, you are very unlikely to meet me and my colleagues in intensive care and it’s far better not to meet us than to end up in ICU.”

Dr Motherway said patients in this wave are extremely ill and staying twice as long in ICU than non-Covid patients.

She said people have probably become a little less fearful of Covid as a result of the vaccination programme and are now gathering indoors more.

Working from home and decreasing contacts is very important to breaking the chains of transmission, she said.

“In addition, people must get tested if they have any symptoms,” she stressed.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Motherway said it is important that the public understands that outcomes are never as good when a hospital surges beyond its normal ICU capacity.

She said that hospitals will continue to try to expand and treat everyone as they come in, but warned it may not be to the standard that hospitals normally aspire to.

“The results aren’t as good when you surge beyond your normal ICU capacity.

“You actually also have to shut down other areas of healthcare, which is not really a victimless crime, because if you shut down other areas of healthcare, other people who don’t have Covid may have poor outcomes and we are very concerned about continuing time critical care.”

Dr Motherway said the Delta variant appears to be extremely transmissible and everyone can expect to get Covid at some stage.

She explained that a viral disease will move through the population and that anyone who gets it needs protection and this is best provided through vaccination.

“Delta will move to our population as we’re seeing, but we need it to move slower. And hopefully we all eventually have acquired immunity – hopefully predominantly through vaccination.”

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