At the start of the year, permanent adult critical care capacity in Ireland stood at 255 beds, according to the National Office of Clinical Audit. This included 204 Level 3 ICU beds and 51 Level 2 HDU beds. Funding for a further 40 adult critical care beds and two paediatric critical care beds was provided as part of the response to Covid-19 in March 2020.
Surge capacity supports the provision of critical care as required, with the number open on any given day subject to fluctuation in respect of available staff. At the outset, substantial work was carried out to develop a critical care capacity plan, including identification of additional ICU and ventilation spaces. The development of the plan, including consideration of staffing, ventilators and oxygen capacity, involved considerable input from clinical, operational and estates perspective, all of which was essential to the intensive effort to deliver the necessary surge capacity.
Training was provided to over 1,500 nursing staff to allow them to provide support to critical care as required. The number of critical care beds open and staffed at any one time can flex with demand, and staffing challenges and clinical risk continue to increase as the number of surge beds increases.
The acute hospital system and critical care service coped with the initial surge in admissions during the early stages of the pandemic, and were not overwhelmed, as was seen elsewhere, largely due to the success of public health measures in flattening the curve and the fall-off in non-Covid care.
My Department and the HSE have been engaging in regard to critical care capacity requirements in the public hospital system and consideration is ongoing.
Regarding the Deputy's queries on expected ICU capacity in a non-Covid environment and the expected occupancy levels at each stage of the roadmap, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.