Covid inpatients double at Altnagelvin Hospital in past week

Foyle MLA flags capacity issues as people attending A&E are having to stand outside in the rain


Over 300 staff members at Altnagelvin Hospital are self-isolating because of coronavirus

A Derry MLA has highlighted the strain Altnagelvin’s Emergency Department is under as the hospital struggles cope with the rising number of Covid-19 patients.

The latest figures show that from October 19-20 there were 127 positive cases in Derry and Strabane bringing the overall total to 4,566.

Across the country another five people died who had Covid-19.

In Derry City and Strabane there have been 1,009 new cases in the past seven days.

The seven-day rate of infection per 100k of population has dropped to 669.7.

The Department of Health (DoH) website states there were 62 Covid inpatients at Altnagelvin Hospital yesterday – that is more than any other hospital in the country.

That figure has more than doubled since last week.

Five Covid patients were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) which according to the DoH website represents 50% of those available.

However, the Western Trust made it clear to the Derry News that 18 beds are available rather than the 10 identified by the DoH.

At Altnagelvin almost a quarter of the beds are occupied by Covid patients, over 70 per cent with other patients and just 6.9 per cent of beds are unoccupied.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has urged the Western Trust to assess interim measures to address the evident capacity issues at Altnagelvin’s Emergency Department.

The call comes after reports of people being left with no other option but to queue outside in bad weather conditions before being seen.

The Foyle MLA commented: “I have highlighted in the past that Altnagelvin’s Emergency Department room is not fit for purpose.

“I recognise the Western Trust do have plans to redesign and extend this space but in the here and now, when we have all been warned of a second wave of the virus, measures really should have been put in place to manage inevitable capacity problems.

“We knew the pressure that our health service would be under, we knew the likelihood that in the event of a subsequent wave that our A&E department would be rammed. We only have to look at recent weeks, with Trusts issuing public messages urging people not to attend A&E unless absolutely necessary.

“As such I cannot fathom, how a makeshift shelter is only being built now. How are people expected to stand out in the cold and pouring rain in the interim.

“The Emergency Department can be problematic at the best of times but this throws up a whole new set of challenges.

“I wonder will there be any supervision and if any thought has been given to the fact that this will actually deter people, especially older and infirm people, from going to hospital when they need to.”

He added: “I imagine part of problem is lack of staff and the inability to get people through quick enough.

“And I want to express solidarity with staff, I fully appreciate how stressful and difficult a time this is for them. But this total lack of foresight from the Trust is completely unacceptable and only serves to make things even tougher for their staff. 

“The health service is an interdependent entity and there is a clear need to look across all aspects of the service, from community pharmacy, General Practice to social care, to determine how this pressure can be relieved.

“While I understand the pressure that Covid has put our services under, that lack of planning and preparation to prevent problems like this arising in the first place, actually undermines and jeopardises the importance of the overall Covid message.”

To continue reading this article, please register and log in.

Registration is free and you can also sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with your latest local news!


Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.