Fewer Covid patients allows Altnagelvin Hospital services to be ‘ramped up’

It includes ‘increased activity’ at clinics to treat an eye disease that can cause blindness


The Western Trust has begun rebuilding its services as fewer Covid patients are being admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital.

At a Board meeting on Thursday, Chief Executive Dr Anne Kilgallen said the number of patients admitted with Covid-19 disease has ‘reduced sufficiently’ to enable the Trust to begin to release staff from Covid duties.

Services that were impacted by the Covid surge will be ‘ramped up’, for example operating theatres, day case theatres and outpatient clinics.

The change will be managed incrementally and the restrictions because a risk of infection means that services will not match pre-pandemic levels.

All Trusts will submit draft rebuild plans for their services for the period April – June for the Health Minister’s consideration.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Kilgallen explained: “Although we face major challenges in rebuilding our services, specifically addressing our waiting times, there are tests of change and other initiatives going on across our organisation which bring hope and encouragement to staff, even if the gains are incremental at this stage.”

She highlighted a number of examples of the teams and services that are working to improve access.

Some services – for example endoscopy and Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) - are going to experience significant reductions in activity compared to normal because they involve aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) and therefore require additional infection prevention and control measures.

The Trust’s estates team has been ‘working successfully’ to improve ventilation where that is possible.

Dr Kilgallen said: “In ICU in Altnagelvin, we continue to have a substantial space for COVID patients and that impacts on our ability to carry out complex planned surgery for non-Covid patients likely to require intensive care.

“The regional prioritisation group, in which we participate, enables us to access surgical capacity elsewhere for patients that need time critical procedures.

“In SWAH, we continue to test the feasibility of hosting new services in our surgical theatres.”

On March 20, she said, the Trust’s Orthopaedic team operated on four patients with foot and ankle conditions, and since mid-February it has recommenced the allocation of surgical lists for cancer patients from Belfast Trust.

“In our Eye Service, we are relocating the outpatient clinic at Altnagelvin so that more patients can be treated by the macular team,” Dr Kilgallen said.

“Macular eye disease is a preventable cause of blindness.

“We will increase activity with clinics running five days a week with three session days on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We have four injection beds which will enable throughput of more patients and also two macular clinics can run concurrently.

“We will identify patients for diagnostic imaging that will help streamline their pathway so they can be reviewed virtually; consultants can validate PTL’s and have diagnostic clinics for patients.

“This would be a total of 168 patients that would be seen within the macular service on a weekly basis in Altnagelvin Hospital,” Dr Kilgallen concluded.


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