COVID upsurge: Derry and Enniskillen hospitals facing ‘unprecedented pressures’ say health chiefs

Health chiefs in the NW say they are under severe pressure due to the high level of COVID infection and the numbers needing to be cared for in hospitals.

A statement just issued by the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust), said it is facing “unprecedented pressures”.

It said: “As of yesterday 24 March 2022 we had 52 COVID-19 patients in Altnagelvin and 51 COVID patients in South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen. This is the highest number of COVID patients we have treated for many months.

Our hospitals are currently operating at 100% bed capacity and there remains high numbers of Emergency Department attendances, and many patients facing lengthy waits for admission to wards.”

Altnagelvin Hospital

Speaking about the current hospital pressures, Western Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian said: “The number of COVID-19 inpatients is again increasing at both Altnagelvin Hospital and the South West Acute Hospital. This is putting extreme pressure on the hospital system, including our workforce and is causing us great concern.

“This is not a simple matter of putting up more beds. Beds require staff to care for patients and pre-existing staffing pressures and staff absences due to COVID continue to be challenge.

“It is very regrettable that we find ourselves in such a difficult position again and we are currently considering if we need to step down some services and redirect staff for a period of time, to ensure that we can manage the increasing pressures in a safe manner.”

Neil continued: “As the Chief Medical Officer emphasised yesterday, the threat from COVID-19 has certainly not ended. Although our admissions to Intensive Care are low, we continue to have very significant numbers of very unwell COVID patients needing care in our hospitals.

“We are therefore asking once again for the public to please support us by adopting COVID safe behaviours whilst visiting our facilities. The Trust treats the safety of our patients, staff and everyone attending our facilities with the utmost importance and therefore strongly recommends that anyone attending any of our facilities to visit a loved one, to take a lateral flow test immediately prior to attending. This will help to reduce the risk for all patients. All infection and prevention control measures MUST be adhered to when visiting and this includes wearing a facemask properly which covers your nose and mouth at all times, in addition to proper hand washing and adhering to social distancing guidelines. Your support helps us to provide safer care for your relatives and friends who are currently in hospital.

Patients and families should also be aware that due to the ongoing pressure for hospital beds patients may be discharged without their full package of care being in place, or discharged to another care facility until the place of their choice is available.”

Neil concluded: “Every single member of our staff across our hospital and community settings are yet again rising to the extreme challenges we are facing and we again thank them for their tremendous efforts.

“For anyone attending any of our hospitals or facilities, we ask that you continue to work with us and please respect our staff and the guidance they give you at all times. There have been incidents where our staff have received verbal abuse and harassment and we would ask everyone to please refrain from such behaviour and remind everyone that we operate a zero tolerance policy towards abuse across our Trust.”