13% hike in A&E admissions with pressures expected to continue through January

The last thing you want - the flu
The last thing you want - the flu

Significant pressures experienced at Altnagelvin’s Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) over Christmas and New Year is likely to continue until the end of the month, however, a crisis situation was probably avoided by contingencies put in place by to deal with the anticipated increased in Winter demand.

That was the message at the Western Trust’s January Board meeting, which yesterday heard of a sharp increase in demand at the local A&E Department over Christmas and New Year.

The Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr. Anne Kilgallen, told members that between December 24 and January 4 there had been a significant 13 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of admissions to Altnagelvin’s A&E, with 2,200 people attending in total over that week-and-a-half.

Furthermore, there was a 14 per cent increase in the number of people attending the Derry Emergency Department in ambulances, a factor that can often indicate more complex patient cases.

Dr. Kilgallen said the increased pressure had inevitably led to an increase in the number of people waiting in A&E beyond the Trust’s target 12 hour waiting time limit, although the decision to introduce its ‘Full Capacity Protocol’ at the height of the surge helped improve the situation.

Dr. Kilgallen praised staff for the manner in which they had coped with the increased pressures despite the fact that many were themselves afflicted by the winter flu virus that is currently circulating within the community.

She said that the level of demand has not lessened in January and that it is likely to continue to be high throughout the month.

She said it was important to stress that in any year the winter ‘flu virus can be ‘devastating’ and not just for old people but for young people as well.

She encouraged people who have not yet been vaccinated to get the ‘flu jab.

Dr. George McIlroy, Non-Executive Director, at the Trust, joined Dr. Kilgallen in praising staff.

He suggested that if contingencies such as increased community provision and the implementation of early notification and discharge workflows within hospitals had not been put in place the Trust could have been looking at a ‘catastrophic’ situation.

Dr. Kilgallen said all three hospitals had refined work flow arrangements and that multiple meetings and communications every day during the period had helped with the movement of patients within the health care system.