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Hospitals may need to use ventilators outside ICU as cases surge

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Hospitals are bracing themselves for the worst conditions of the pandemic so far, as the Christmas surge of Covid-19 cases hits hospitals and ICU units in the coming days.

As the Irish Times reports, ministers and senior officials say next week will see the most severe test of the health service since the pandemic began as a proportion of the very high numbers of positive cases reported since Christmas will become seriously ill and require hospital care.

“Next week is it,” one minister said.

Modelling by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) shows pressures on hospitals peaking at some time between January 16th and 22nd, with sources estimating that the most likely peak will be around the 16th when Nphet expects roughly 1,300 people will be in hospital with Covid in an optimistic scenario.

Under more pessimistic projections, up to 2,200 will be in hospital at some point between then and the 22nd, though sources said there is cause for optimism that the number of new infections has peaked, meaning the load on hospitals may not be as high as feared under worst-case scenario planning.

Hospital admissions

But the number of positive cases continues to hit record levels, with 8,248 new cases reported on Friday night, and a further 20 deaths recorded.

One official said he expected to see several days of “significant hospital admissions” but that the situation should “ease off” after that.

Health sources said that hospitals were preparing to use ventilators outside intensive care units if the ICUs reach capacity in the next week. The health service has about 400 ICU beds but has access to about 1,800 ventilators.

We are preparing to provide care to people outside the ICU setting,” one official said.

There are some signs that the post-Christmas surge of infections may be abating, with the positivity rate of tests and GP referrals showing signs of easing off.

But there was further worry last night when the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan confirmed that three cases of the South African variant of the virus had been detected in Ireland.

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Ireland

Trial over Kevin Lunney abduction and assault delayed due to Covid 19 pandemic

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The trial of four men accused of abducting and assaulting Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney will not now proceed at the Special Criminal Court before March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, this morning  said that he has been told by the president of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine that “following meetings at a higher level”, the 12-week trial would not be able to start before March 1st and this date was “subject to developments”.

The case, which was in for mention today before the three-judge court, had originally been fixed for trial on January 11th at the non-jury court.

However, on January 5th, Mr Justice Hunt said that the trial would be delayed as “the position seemed to be that it would be undesirable and imprudent to proceed to start this case on schedule considering the public health situation”. The judge remarked at the time that it was “absolutely our intention” for the trial to proceed on February 1st.

Remote hearings

Luke O’Reilly (66), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (25), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; and Alan O’Brien (38) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, are all charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney (50) at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019. Another male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also charged with the same offences at the same date and location.

Father-of-six Mr Lunney (50), had his leg broken, was doused in bleach and had the letters QIH carved into his chest before he was dumped on a roadside in Co Cavan.

Mr Justice Hunt said today that remote hearings were taking place in the courts but pointed out that the trial of the four accused men did not “fall into that category”.

Sean Guerin SC, on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), asked Mr Justice Hunt if there was “any merit” in reviewing the commencement date on an interim basis.

Mr Justice Hunt said he would list the case for February 24th as matters are being “reviewed upstream” on the previous day. “I hope to say on February 24th that we will be proceeding on March 1st or whatever date, and we will also work out the modus operandi,” he added.

At this morning’s brief hearing, Mr Justice Hunt provisionally fixed March 1st for the trial to commence and listed the case for mention on February 24th.

Document disclosure

The court had previously been told that there are over 50,000 documents involved in the case that needed to be digitally rendered and that there had been issues with disclosure.

In December, the three-judge court dismissed a bid to halt the trial over a ruling expected from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on data retention.

Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, for the unnamed man, argued that the law on the retention and accessing of mobile phone data was in “a state of significant uncertainty” in Ireland and that the trial should not proceed until the matter was resolved.

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Kevin Lunney abduction accused complains to Garda…

However, Mr Justice Hunt said that it was not enough to justify an adjournment.

The judge also found the fact that a Renault Kangoo van went on fire while in the possession of gardaí was “immutable” and was also not a sufficient basis to adjourn.

One of the four men has complained to the Garda ombudsman alleging that DNA was planted on the van, allegedly used in the abduction, so it would not be made available to the defence.

It had been also unsuccessfully argued by defence counsel that the trial should not go on until the ombudsman’s investigation is completed.

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Tributes paid to ‘kind’ doctor who may be first GP to die with Covid-19

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Tributes have been paid to a long-serving doctor in Dublin, who may be the first general practitioner (GP) to die with Covid-19 if his death is officially attributed to the virus.

The Irish Times reports that Paul McDermott (57) from Rathfarnham treated patients from his surgery on Glendoher Road for more than 20 years.

Mr McDermott tested positive for Covid-19 after his sudden death at home in early January.

Deaths are counted as Covid-19 deaths if confirmed by a positive test, or if the virus played a role in a person’s death in the opinion of a medical practitioner.

Mr McDermott’s family are currently waiting for the result of a postmortem.

His brother, Ray, said Mr McDermott had been treating patients with Covid-19 in the weeks before he died.

‘Warm, witty and compassionate’

Hundreds have paid tribute to Dr McDermott online, including former patients, colleagues and friends.

One former patient said “he was more than a family doctor, he was a friend and confidant, irrespective of how busy it was”.

Another described him as “kind, loyal, warm, witty and compassionate”.

The GP comes from a family tradition of practising medicine, with his mother Sarah MacAuley opening a GP surgery in Rathfarnham in the late 1960s.

“Paul, along with my mother, worked for many years in the community; she for 50 years now, and he for over 20,” his brother Ray McDermott, who is an oncologist, said.

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‘No shame’ in contracting Covid-19 amid soaring tr…

Ms MacAuley, who is now in her 90s, continued to work alongside her late son until recently, Ray added.

According to official figures, 11 healthcare workers have so far died with Covid-19.

Among the most recent healthcare worker deaths are Mariter Tarugo, a healthcare assistant at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin; and Bernie McAndrew, a nurse in Belmullet, Co Mayo.

More than 6,800 healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19 since Christmas — one in 10 of all positive cases.

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Uniphar records profit despite Covid-19 challenges

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Healthcare services group Uniphar overperformed in terms of earnings and profit last year despite challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its full-year results for 2020, the company said profit was in excess of six per cent due to a strong performance in the group’s international divisions — product access, and commercial and clinical.

Uniphar acquired Irish pharmacy chain Hickey’s last year in a deal worth €60 million.

It said this increased Uniphar’s offering to 335 pharmacies.

Uniphar also acquired American healthcare communications company Diligent Health Solutions in a $27 million (€23.1 million) deal.

Stockbroking firm Davy predicts growth of 16.9 per cent in 2021 and 19.3 per cent in 2022 for Uniphar.

Uniphar said it was confident the impacts of Covid-19 on the business would not be as severe in the next two years.

“Our trading update reflects a strong performance for 2020 and I’m very proud of what our team have achieved, and in particular the great resilience and unstinting commitment demonstrated by them throughout this unprecedented and challenging period,” Ger Rabbette, Uniphar chief executive said.

“Progress in the last 12 months has been significant despite the challenging backdrop.”

 

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