New Emergency Department needed to address ‘congestion’ at Altnagelvin

Altnagelvin Hospital's A &E entrance (right).

Altnagelvin Hospital's A &E entrance (right).

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The Chief Executive of the Western Trust has said a new Emergency Department is needed at Altnagelvin Hospital to deal with congestion.

Elaine Way was speaking as it emerged dozens of patients had to wait over 12 hours at Accident and Emergency during the month of October.

There were a total of 30 breaches of guidelines which state no patient should be waiting longer than 12 hours.

In terms of the four-hours target set for patients to be seen at the Emergency Department, the Trust performance fell from 77 per cent in September to 73 per cent in October.

The figures were revealed at the Western Health and Social Care Trust’s December board meeting.

Trust Chief Executive Elaine Way said: “I am concerned at the number of 12 hour breaches we are having in the Western Trust.”

She also made reference to a recent inspection of the Emergency Department and other wards at Altnagelvin by health watchdog the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

While the inspectors reported positive findings in the other two wards they inspected, they reported back that the Emergency Department was under-staffed during busy periods and that those working there were “tired, burnt out and stressed.

“They were reflecting what we know,” Ms Way said. “Staff are dealing with increasing numbers of really sick patients in a confined environment.

“The physical congestion can’t properly be addressed until we have a new, physical Emergency Department.

“We are working very hard to address issues on an ongoing basis as they arise,” she added.

Geraldine McKay, Trust Director of Acute Services, concurred that the Trust was not surprised by any of the recommendations adding that 13 of the 36 made by RQIA have already been completed. “We had started long before RQIA came in” adding that staffing levels were being increased at A&E.

The RQIA reported findings after carrying out an unannounced inspection at Altnagelvin back in July. The report praised the work that was going on in the hospital in terms of best practice and patient care, and the commitment of staff right across the areas inspected. However they raised concerns over staffing levels at A&E. The Trust responded That it has seen the number of patients soar at the Emergency Department by over 6,600 in the period from November 2015 to September 2016.