A new model that can deliver over 100,000 coronavirus tests per week has been formally agreed with the Secretary General of the Department of Health and sets out a "road map" on how to get to that level, according to the CEO of the Health Service Executive.
Paul Reid said a new national infrastructure to support the country into the future for pandemics will need to be built with more integrated laboratory oversight and more sustainable models around contact tracing.
He said a lot had been achieved in putting call centres in place, establishing new processes and agreements with GPs to support testing and tracing, and the securing of 27 labs and 47 testing centres across the country.
Health Minister Simon Harris, speaking in a video posted to Twitter this evening, revealed that 37,000 coronavirus tests have now been carried out in nursing homes around the country.
Earlier, Mr Reid said we will have to look at the Irish health system through a new lens and fundamentally challenge how we deliver services into 2021 as it becomes clear that Covid-19 will be here for a long time.
He said that we will have to build a longer term model "not just a wartime model" to deliver all healthcare services over the coming years.
Mr Reid said the flexibility of the workforce during the current pandemic has been fantastic and has "broken down walls" in changing the ways they worked.
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He said that Ireland needs to build a self-sufficient model of Personal Protective Equipment through developing a stronger indigenous supply model for the provision of PPE, which to date has been mainly sourced overseas.
He said the HSE would normally spend €15m a year on PPE, but recently placed a €208 million order in China and will place another €150-€200m order if changes are made to the rules on the wearing of facemasks.
He said this offered an opportunity to stimulate the economy by delivering PPE and many SMEs have put "on the green jersey" and helped to deliver PPE.
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Mr Reid also that a new dual strategy focused on protecting patients and staff from Covid-19 and ensuring all other healthcare services can be delivered in a very new way is part of a new action plan for the organisation.
He said elements of Slaintecare will have to be challenged and bureaucracy broken down to get the best out of the workforce.
There are now 749 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospitals here, with 123 patients in intensive care units.There are also 150 patients in ICU with non-Covid related health issues.
There are 139 ICU beds available and 1,600 beds available across hospitals for admissions.
Seventeen private hospitals are now being used for public patients with 130 private consultants signed up to work in the public healthcare system.
HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor said admissions to hospitals and attendances at emergency departments have also risen - with attendances at emergency departments up 10.3% to 16,566 this week, although still lower than for the same period last year.
There has been an 8% increase in admissions from emergency departments to just under 5,000 and a 12% rise in attendances from people aged over 75 .
She said the HSE is supporting 425 long term residential care facilities with 75 deemed to be at significant risk in terms of their operations, particularly in the area of staffing and that 17 are HSE-run facilities.
Ms O'Connor said the supply and distribution of PPE to nursing homes has been very challenging, with 60% of all items of PPE received by the HSE now going to nursing homes .
She said that there is a significant increase in demand for facemasks following the new guidelines for the use of masks by healthcare workers.
She said that seven million facemasks a week will be needed going forward, with just 200,000 currently going out each day to nursing homes - though it is planned this will rise to one million soon.
Over 119 HSE staff have been redeployed to some of the worst hit private nursing homes and alternative accommodation has been approved for more than 600 staff working in such homes.
Ms O'Connor also confirmed that there are Covid-19 outbreaks in 82 residential disability care services and 33 residential mental health care services.
She said that she did not believe they had taken their "eye off that ball", adding, "we have been concerned about disability and mental health settings all the way through this.
"That's why we speak about long term residential care, we don't just talk about nursing homes because actually the challenges in relation to disability and mental health settings can be very significant.
"Many of them are congregated settings, they are community houses and in some cases in mental health we have people detained under the mental health act so we are not awash with different options in terms of how we can provide that care," Ms O'Connor said.
Ms O'Connor said that in addition to deploying staff to the HSE's services for older persons and to private nursing homes, staff and supports were also being deployed to these disability and mental health care settings.
Call for Oireachtas committee to address Covid-19
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said an Oireachtas committee should be set up to deal with Covid-19.
However, he said politicians must be careful not to interfere with the work of the HSE and the Chief Medical Officer.
Mr Ryan said it would be appropriate for health officials to come in for two-hour periods and brief TDs about what is taking place.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said people are making decisions in real time and when the facts are evolving quickly.
He said transparency and accountability were needed and he said it should not be sacrificed.
However, he said the pressures that people are under should be recognised.
He said the HSE must be far more open about the challenges in nursing homes when it comes to PPE and staffing.
Additional Reporting: Laura Fletcher and Aisling Kenny