Western Trust warns that Altnagelvin Hospital is now at a 'critical juncture'

The Derry hospital now has 31 Covid positive patients with five of those in intensive care

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Western Trust confirms testing for staff

The Western Trust has said that it is at a 'critical juncture' in terms of service provision as the number of Covid positive cases at Altnagelvin Hospital has risen to over 30.

Altnagelvin Hospital currently has 31 Covid positive patients.

Five of those patients are in intensive care.

Coupled with normal ‘winter pressures’ the hospital is under severe strain.

Members of the public have been asked to attend the emergency department only when necessary and asked to consider other appropriate healthcare options available to you, such as your local Pharmacy or GP Out-Of-Hours.

In terms of it’s surge plan it is in High (Red) Surge meaning that in all service areas, there will be scaling down and/or potentially standing down of some services to allow the Trust to prioritise critical and front line COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care for our sickest patients.

At the Western Trust’s South West Acute Hospital there are 14 hospital patients with Covid-19 and two of them are in critical care beds.

It is at Medium (Amber) Surge where some services in the acute hospital setting may be affected.

To put those figures in perspective, across the region there are 22 patients in critical care – almost a quarter of them are in Derry.

As of today, Derry and Strabane has 3,161 positive Covid-19 cases.

Its 7 day transmission rate is 971 per 100k of population, more than twice that of Belfast and one of the highest rates across Europe.

Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Hospitals, said: “We have increasing numbers on a daily basis and increasing at pace over the last 8-10 days.

“It appears that our numbers are doubling every three to four days in terms of patients that are positive.

“We have reviewed our surge plans, put back in place the pathways that we talked about during phase one.”

At Altnagelvin the new North Wing Wards were opened ahead of schedule before the summer to manage Covid-19 capacity in the hospital.

There are two Covid wards in the North Wing and a third Covid ward in the south building.

Patients are moved to those wards depending on their condition.

At Altnagelvin 345 staff are not available due to various reasons including self-isolating because of Covid symptoms or contact with positive patients.

Ms McKay said: “The availability of staff at this time is becoming increasingly difficult and we probably can’t continue to do that for the longer term.

“So we will probably be making decisions on that later this week.”

High transmission in the Derry area is an issue and ‘community contacts’ has been a big issue.

“This is an extremely challenging position for us across the sites and in terms of how we do our business and what services we can provide at this time,” Ms McKay said.

As of today the Trust is still providing cancer surgery, clinically urgent surgery and at this time day-case orthopaedic surgery.

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