'People are sitting in Altnagelvin A&E holding drip stands'

A senior doctor has said Altnagelvin A&E has been hit 'very hard' by COVID-19 and is 'rapidly approaching the situation where we are emergencies only'.

Dr. Paul Baylis, Consultant in Emergency Care, said around one in seven nurses are currently unavailable due to the coronavirus pandemic and that the local A&E is under serious pressure.

"Due to COVID-19 nursing staff are down by about 15 per cent and that really does hit us very hard. What's happening in the Emergency Department (ED) here is we're getting more patients in the front door and we're getting less patients out the back door up to the wards because of all the pressure on the wards and the difficultly discharging people from hospital.

"To give you an example, we've often got 40-plus people waiting for beds here in A&E, have got 30 spaces, so every space is rammed. There's people sitting holding drip stands and that's the situation here in A&E. It means it's not really an ED. What it is is an acute ward with a little bit of Emergency Department tacked around the rim and that's the pressure that we're under," he said.

Altnagelvin Hospital

Dr. Baylis appealed for the public only to use the local A&E if they really need to.

"You need to ask yourself seriously whether what you have is an emergency because we are rapidly approaching the situation where we are emergencies only here in Altnagelvin ED.

"We're talking heart attacks, chest pains, strokes, if you're diabetic and you are unwell, if you have broken a bone please come.

"But if you have maybe had a bad back for six months maybe that's something you need to contact your GP about and got from there."

He asked people to try to avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place by washing hands, socially distancing, wearing a face mask, working from home and getting vaccinated.

"Please, please, please get your booster. If you do get COVID-19 and there is a lot of it out there let's face it you are much less likely to have to come to see us here in ED or the hospital if you have had your booster."

Dr. Baylis reiterated the Western Trust' s appeals for the public to help it free up hospital beds.

"If as a family you are able to support the discharge of an elderly relative from hospital, that's one more bed created in the ward, which means one more patient moved up from ED, which means one more patient taken off an ambulance trolley and another ambulance available to go out and pick up - God forbid - another one of your relatives.

"So please, please, please, as a family if you can pull together and help facilitate the discharge of an elderly relative at this time that would be very much appreciated."