ICU at Dublin’s Mater Hospital now at full capacity
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ICU at Dublin’s Mater Hospital now at full capacity

THE PRESIDENT of the Intensive Care Society of Ireland, has said that the intensive care unit (ICU) at Dublin’s Mater hospital is now at full capacity.  

Speaking to Morning IrelandDr Coleman O'Loughlin who is Director of Critical Care Medicine at the hospital also confirmed some  patients, who have been ventilated, have been moved to the high dependency unit for care. 

He said: “There are 18 beds in our standard ICU, we have been running 17-18 beds for the last few years, between the mix we are full, we have also had to move some of our sicker patients out of ICU and into the high dependency for ventilation. 

"That happened just before the weekend, we're lucky that we had a lead-in time to allow us shut down the normal activity of the hospital and free up a lot of space capacity, which has allowed us to build plans for surge activity.” 

Dr O'Loughlin also said he is already beginning to get referrals from the wards, where some patients are beginning to deteriorate. 

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But while he admitted that COVID-19 remains a “unique disease” without a defined course of treatment, some ICU patients had reacted well to their treatment to the point were they have been able to discharge them back to the hospital ward. 

He went on to describe Covid-19 as “a unique disease” without a definitive treatment, but he pointed out that some patients have done very well in the ICU and have been discharged back to the ward. 

“These patients are very sick, this is a devastating lung injury, the ones that require admission to intensive care - some are lucky enough that they have the physiological reserve, the strength to fight this off on their own immune system, without intervention from intensive care,” Dr O'Loughlin said. 

“Unfortunately some are not so lucky and the process that undermines the pneumonia continues to worsen while they're in intensive care and it goes back to the original problem - there is no definitive treatment for this, there's no anti-viral agent that has been proven to work, there's no other agent that we can give them, as opposed to a bacterial pneumonia - we give them antibiotics and it helps.” 

“All we're doing is giving support, we're doing organ support, we're supporting lungs, kidneys etc. and we're giving the patient a chance to recover. We're trying to minimise complications - if they recover then that's fantastic and it makes everyone feel great about the interventions that we're using, but there's certainly the fact that some patients are not recovering and some have passed away in intensive care. It's very hard for us to do more than support them as best we can." 

He was keen to stress that hospital staff were doing all they could for families during this difficult time, including offering an option for them to visit loved ones while wearing Personal Protective Equipment so they could say goodbye. 

Dr O’Loughlin added that the hospital’s job was being made that much more difficult by the number of staff also getting sick from COVID-19, in something he admitted was a situation being faced by hospitals all over the world. 

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Commenting on the interview, Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris described Dr O'Loughlin’s assessment of the situation as “sobering”.