Over 300 staff members at Altnagelvin Hospital are self-isolating because of coronavirus
Over 300 members of staff at Altnagelvin Hospital are on sickness leave having to self-isolate because of coronavirus, the Derry News has learned.
Across the Western Trust area, which includes the South West Acute Hospital in Fermanagh and other services, there are 808 workers off sick because of COVID-19 - the illness that can affect your lungs and airways which is caused by coronavirus.
A Western Trust spokesperson provided the figures which were reported at last week’s meeting of the Trust Board.
They reveal that at the Derry hospital 167 workers are self-isolating due to their own symptoms meaning they have to stay at home for seven days based on strict government advice.
While a further 137 workers at Altnagelvin have a family member displaying symptoms, requiring them to stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms.
However, if workers then develop symptoms during this 14-day period, they need to stay at home for an extra 7 days from the day their symptoms started - staff can therefore be off sick for 21 days or longer if their condition does not improve.
The surge of the virus is expected to arrive in Northern Ireland between April 6-20.
Therefore all Trusts want as many workers available as possible.
Thus far testing has been limited to patients who are being admitted to hospital and some health care workers.
There have been calls for increased testing, particularly of health workers on the frontline.
To combat the issue of sickness and ensure that people can promptly return to work, the Western Trust this week introduced COVID-19 testing for staff and any of their family members who are displaying symptoms.
A Trust spokesperson said: "Staff testing is vital to maintain staff attendance at work as well as supporting staff health and well-being.
"COVID Staff Testing service is now operational across the Western Trust with one centre in Altnagelvin Area Hospital and one centre in Enniskillen.
"Testing is for health care workers or a person in their household that they have direct contact with who is displaying COVID symptoms.
"Testing is through an appointment process and the individual will be contacted within 48-72 hours with the result and given advice with regards to returning to work."
Meanwhile, almost 1,000 workers have responded to the Western Trust's workforce appeal, many of whom were able to start this week.
As a result of the HSC Workforce Campaign launched on March 27 - there are currently 588 applications being processed for the Western Trust across a range of staff groups.
Trust staff who have retired in the last three years have been contacted – 96 have agreed to return across a range of staff groups.
Some Trust staff who were due to retire in the next four months have also expressed an interest in extending their retirement date to support the Trust’s COVID response.
Students from a range of professions have expressed an interest in coming to work for the Trust.
These include 46 medical students who were due to start work in the Trust as Medical Student Technicians on Monday of this week.
In addition, 154 student nurses from a range of specialties from Ulster University and Queen's University, Belfast were due to start work with the Trust on Monday.
Students will be paid as healthcare workers at Band 4 until qualified, when they will be made permanent Band 5 nurses.
Also, 44 student social workers were due to start work in the Trust yesterday.
Almost 1,000 people have registered in response to the Workforce Appeal.
This covers the entire range of disciplines, e.g. porters, plumbers, nurses, doctors, administrators and social workers.
It is envisaged that these registrants will be able to be processed this week.
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