Altnagelvin is in the "red zone" and routine inpatient surgeries have been temporarily cancelled.
The hospital has in place an early warning scoring system which assesses the level of pressure on an acute hospital site.
It monitors trigger points, such as the number of patients in the Emergency Department, beds available, number of ambulances waiting to offload patients etc, and responses are then agreed.
This is done four times a day and indicates the status of the hospital, the two main levels are red (severe) and black (extreme) which prompts actions to de-escalate the situation. Altnagelvin is currently in the red zone and has been for a “considerable number of days” since the tool was implemented two weeks ago. “It is the norm at present,” explained Mr Mark Gillespie, Assistant Director of Acute Services.
Last Thursday a decision was taken to cancel inpatient routine surgery given the number of patients admitted for surgery who couldn’t access beds – that decision will be reviewed at the end of December.
“We were hoping to continue as much as we could and we will make sure that emergency patients, red flag and cancer patients are not cancelled, but we will also prioritise clinically urgent patients on a daily basis,” added Ms Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Services.
There are a number of community based services aimed at providing care for the elderly and others at home.
At the moment the hospital is finding it difficult to get patients into beds.
Staff well-being is also of great import to the Trust, ensuring that they get breaks while in work and leave over the Christmas period.
“Additional capacity” is being considered at present by enhancing the Ambulatory Care Unit to relieve pressure and to look after patients who are fit for discharge but have no community support.
Nursing vacancies was a concern for Altnagelvin last year, 155 new graduates have been interviewed this year and they have all been offered a post, 109 have been accepted - 84 permanent and 25 temporary.
“At this minute and time we have about 39 vacancies across the Trust in our band 5, compare to last year that is way down. We are also waiting on others to register and others to accept posts,” Ms McKay explained.
Mr Gillespie added that ahead of "winter pressures" last year there were significantly more beds closed, this year more are open but “pressure is actually greater”.
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