We have 270 Public ICU beds in Ireland – We must all fight to protect them

In essence we are at war in Ireland now. We will all need to start thinking in that mind-frame. No doubt, it is an unusual war and against an invisible enemy. To fight this war we must ask ourselves – What it is our enemy wants. What are our enemy’s goals. At this stage of hostilities our enemy is targeting one thing.

Our ICU beds.

If the enemy can break that front he will over-run us. In peace-time, Ireland has between 270 and 300 public ICU beds. As we dis-guard the robes of our neutrality, our initial fight is to protect these beds while our government and health professionals scramble to create more. If you want to help – support someone that is at the front lines of protecting our beds. If you want to help – reduce any actions that will require you or a member of your family needing one.

My information is that in peace-time we have 500 ventilators in the public system. We must fight to protect them too. Every ICU bed has a ventilator but we may need many, many more. While our officials scramble to source more, we must again, in the mean-time work to protect them. I am quite sure talks are at an advanced stage with the private hospitals to temporarily utilize their significant resources. Our public hospitals will not be able to do it all alone.

There are many things we do not know yet about our common enemy the coronavirus. But there are a few things we have learned through the desperate struggle of the Italians. When ICU beds and Ventilators run dry – casualty rates seem to rise in a quite horrific manner. Medical practitioners essentially have to make life or death decisions. The answer to simple questions have terrible consequences.

Are you over 70?

Then later are you over 60?

Do you smoke?

As demand spikes and outstrips supply – Instant decisions to the answers of these questions need to be applied. Decisions, that 3 weeks ago , in Italy, were probably thought to be straight out of a science fiction novel. It is a sobering non-fiction reality today as the bodies stack up.

In a war if the troops don’t have discipline then it merely tots up to a poor army. Many people around the country want to help and I am sure official methods to do so will arise in the coming days. But we can’t all run off doing our own thing, and I say that as someone who is more critical of our current set of politicians than most. There will be time for critique of their stewardship later. In the present, we are all in this together. The cards have been dealt and we must start to play them in the best way that we can.

One of the first countries to break ranks and shutdown their borders were the architects of the European project and the EU. Germany. A number of countries immediately followed suit. The ramifications of border shutdowns may well become apparent in the next few weeks as trade between countries becomes more problematic and peters out. The message? – Europe won’t save us. Individual countries are fighting to save themselves. We too must fight to save ourselves.

In 2008 we were asked to swallow bank bailouts by the Europeans to stop bank and global financial contagion spreading across Europe. We swallowed it then and because we swallowed it – thats an order of tens of billions of euro we don’t have today to help us in this larger fight for survival.

If you are a statistics nerd you may have noticed that the Norwegians have one of the lowest death rates in the entire world for countries that have over 1,000 cases of coronavirus. Norway has a sovereign wealth fund worth of 900 billion euro to assist them in this fight of fights. We do not – so we have be smart, co-ordinated and work in unison. Or we will die at Italian level numbers and not Norwegian. Our attitude needs to be. Ireland First. Ireland Second. Ireland only.

There will be many conversations to be had after we beat the coronavirus and we will beat it. One of them will need to be about our relationship with Europe. As we are learning now – European rules and regulations are only for the good times. When the bad times start to roll it’s each country for themselves.

I wanted to leave you with the words of the Irishman at the heart of the World Health Organisation response. The Executive Director of their Health Emergencies Program Dr. Mike Ryan. It’s an appropriate call to arms in the war ahead of us.

The lesson I have learned after so many Ebola outbreaks in my career are:

Be fast – have no regrets – you must be the first mover – The virus will always get you if you don’t move quickly……If you need to be right before you move you will never win. Perfection is the enemy of the good…speed trumps perfection “

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