With the present Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions confirmed for extension until Friday, March 5, most recently updated figures published by the Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HSPC ) and HSE (from 05/01-18/01 ) reveal that three local electoral areas within the region boast the lowest Covid-19 rates per population in the country.
There were 120 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Athlone electoral area (Westmeath ) during this particular timeframe resulting in a 14 day incidence rate of 528.8 per 100,000 population (there is a total population of 22,692 within the Athlone local electoral area as per the most recent census ).
There were 113 confirmed Covid-19 cases within the Athlone local electoral area of Roscommon during this timeframe which represents a rate of 565.6 per 100,000 population.
The Moate local electoral area which was altered prior to the most recently held local elections in 2019 and now covers a swathe of the county to include Mount Temple, Drumraney and Tang and verging towards Mullingar, showed a significant improvement pertaining to confirmed Covid-19 cases with a decrease in number to 100 (the previous data released noted 131 confirmed cases in this particular local electoral area during the time period 29/12/2020-12/01 ).
Boasting a total population of 18,444 as per the most recent census, the confirmed virus cases resulted in a 14 day incidence rate of 542.2 per 100,000 population.
As of midnight on Monday, January 25, Westmeath is placed 22nd on the 14 day incidence rate per 100,000 population following the latest figures announcement.
With a 14 day incidence rate of 397.7, the case numbers are below the national average incidence rate of 721.1 cases per 100,000 population.
Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta Hospital Group, which provides acute and specialist services at Portiuncula University Hospital in Ballinasloe, noted that the escalating number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs ) combined with high levels of staff absenteeism due to the virus, is putting severe pressure on local hospitals.
There are presently four Covid-19 patients in the seven bed ICU (five ICU and two high dependency/critical care beds ) at Portiuncula University Hospital.
An initiative introduced to meet the demand for ICU services is the transfer of patients from various hospitals within the Saolta Group to avail of vacant critical care beds in facilities on other sites in the region.
Mr Canavan outlined that patients have been transferred in the last week from Mayo to Portiuncula University Hospital in Ballinasloe.
“This is the best way to manage ICU beds, if one hospital is under pressure, others hospitals can help. There is co-operation across the region and this has worked very well. It is not just people’s own individual hospitals in their area which are looking after them, all resources are pooled,” Mr Canavan stated.
The cancellation of non-emergency scheduled surgeries enabled the hospital group to redeploy nurses to intensive care units. This has alleviated the pressure on these facilities which treat critically ill patients. These extra beds could not have been opened unless staff became available and with the high level of Covid-19related abseentism, staff shortfalls is a major issue in hospitals right now.
The CEO explained that “high level supports”, such as oxygen therapy, is being provided for patients in general hospital beds across the Saolta group, which runs seven hospitals on five sites in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Letterkenny.
“This allows us to hold ICU beds for the sickest people,” Mr Canavan continued.
But while ICUs continue to treat increasing numbers of Covid-19 positive patients, the numbers in virus centric wards has begun to decrease. This is in line with the third wave of the virus having peaked early last week, according to the Saolta chief.
Mr Canavan stated that the Saolta suite of hospitals are entering a different phase now in terms of managing the virus. A few weeks ago the number of people contacting their GPs with Covid-19 concerns rose as did the number attending testing centres and being hospitalised because of the virus, but such numbers have levelled off for now.