Updated: 04/01/17 : 11:44:32
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Flu vaccine may become mandatory for health workers

The Minister for Health has said the flu vaccine may be made mandatory for health workers.

Simon Harris said he was disappointed at the uptake levels in the sector, and said fewer than 20% of nurses have got the jab. The HSE has cited a surge in winter illnesses like the flu for the current surge in demand for services at the country's hospitals.

Figures released by the INMO shows 602 patients lying on trolleys today awaiting admission, with 22 at Sligo University Hospital.

"There's an onus on all of us working in the health service and going in and out of hospitals, to get it. Not only does it keep us well; it also limits the chances of us carrying it and impacting on patients," he said.

"If the uptake is so low, it's something we will have to look at in the future."

Health chiefs have blamed flu, winter vomiting bugs and chest infections for a new record overcrowding crisis in the country's hospitals, with the INMO saying 612 patients were waiting on trolleys in emergency units yesterday.

HSE bosses disputed the nurses' head count, claiming that its records showed 487 patients waiting for a bed at 8am on Tuesday morning.

The HSE said the problem is being compounded by 21 outbreaks of respiratory infections and flu this season in hospitals, nursing homes and residential centres.

It also said there has been a significant increase in the number of over 75s seeking hospital care. They are twice as likely to be admitted and commonly stay twice as long.