Derry A&E doctor Paul Baylis speaks of 'extreme pressure' and says COVID is 'not over'
A senior consultant at Altnagelvin has warned the public the COVID-19 pandemic is not over after another surge in pressure at the Derry hospital's A&E department on Tuesday.
Last night the Western Trust reported that the Emergency Department (ED) at Altnagelvin Hospital was 'under extreme pressure' with 74 people in A&E and a further 30 people waiting to be admitted to the hospital at one point.
Earlier the Trust had issued a staff appeal to agency nursing staff at Band 5 asking them to consider reporting for duty if they were available.
The neighbouring Northern Trust, meanwhile, has declared a 'potential major incident' with 62 people waiting to be admitted to Antrim Area Hospital at one point.
Dr. Paul Baylis, Consultant in Emergency Care, said: "Our numbers are increasing again and maybe there's a feeling out in the community that COVID's over. Certainly that's what the government seems to be telling us. But actually the reality is for the NHS it's not over by a long shot yet."
The senior A&E doctor acknowledged that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is much less severe, however, he said that the Derry casualty department is still seeing many sick people presenting with COVID-19.
"The reality is here in the hospital we do have a lot of elderly people. We've a lot of sick people. We've a lot of frail and immunocompromised people so here in the hospital we need to maintain our vigilance against COVID just as we did at the peak of the pandemic," he said.
Dr. Baylis said people who feel they require emergency care should still present at the local A&E.
"We don't want people at home with chest pains or maybe strokes or serious injuries that they're not coming up and getting checked out and getting looked after," he said.
However, he encouraged people with less serious ailments or conditions to consider alternatives.
Dr. Baylis continued: "If it is a more minor problem you should really ask yourself - is it an emergency? Can I perhaps look after myself? Can I perhaps get my GP to help out or local pharmacist and avoid attending A&E this time because we are under extreme pressure?"
He said the wider message for people visiting the hospital is that COVID-19 hasn't gone away and he asked people visiting Altnagelvin to maintain their hand hygiene, keep their masks on, and maintain socially distancing.
Dr. Baylis also appealed for the public's help in facilitating early discharges to free up beds for sick patients.
"Our final message is if it's possible for you to help an elderly relative to get home from hospital to help with their convalescence at home that would be a fantastic bonus, not just for your mum, your granny, but also one more patient out of hospital means I can move one more patient up from A&E.
"It means we can get someone off the ambulance trolley and get an ambulance back out there to care for people in the community so even one discharge is a big, big help to us.
"I suppose what in summary I'm saying is that unfortunately, as yet, COVID is still a major pressure here in the hospitals and I'd ask you to bear that in mind if you choose to come up to the hospital," he said.