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21/09/2021

Altnagelvin Hospital services curtailed due to spike in Covid cases

The Derry hospital is currently at 'High Surge' because of a significant rise in admissions brought about by increased community transmission rates

Altnagelvin Hospital services curtailed due to spike in Covid cases

The Western Trust is prioritising Covid inpatients and its most ill patients after initiating a 'high surge' plan due to a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases over the past month.

A comprehensive update was given to the media today during which the Trust outlined the current situation in both hospital and community settings.

In terms of its surge plan, the meeting was told that it is in High (Red) Surge.

That means in all service areas, there will be scaling down and potentially standing down of some services to allow the Trust to prioritise critical and front line Covid-19 patients and non-Covid-19 care for its most ill patients.

Speaking today, Western Trust Medial Director, Dr Catherine McDonnell, said the Trust anticipated the surge in infections but it came quicker than expected.

On June 25 Altnagelvin Hospital had five Covid inpatients and by July 25 that rose to 40.

Nine Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are occupied, six of those with Covid patients.

The Derry News asked for the split between Covid inpatients who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Dr McDonnell said the Trust does not have any clinical system to gather that data but the likelihood of being admitted to hospital is ‘much higher’ if you have not been vaccinated.

She added that the likelihood of admission to intensive care is ‘much higher’ if you haven’t been vaccinated.

During the third Covid-19 surge, the Western Trust had been working with estates colleagues on a plan to redesign the current ICU and HDU footprint to enhance the isolation capability.

This £500K investment is due for completion at the end of August 2021 and will minimise any impact of future Covid-19 escalation on theatre and will provide much improved staff rest facilities.

The numbers of staff off on annual leave and isolating due to Covid is putting further pressure on the system, the meeting was told.

This has impacted on many key areas including pharmacy, booking teams, nursing and medical staff and has placed 'increased pressures' on the acute hospital sites. 

As a result the Western Trust’s most recent “1-1-1” visiting restrictions will remain in place at Altnagelvin and Waterside Hospitals for another seven day period, until at least August 6, 2021.

Across June and July there has been a 10 per cent increase in attendances at Altnagelvin’s A&E department.

Mark Gillespie, Assistant Director for Emergency Medicine, said people have waited longer than anticipated to access an inpatient bed.

Compared to the same period last year there has been a five per cent increase in admissions.

Both combined have put further pressure on the system.

Following the third Covid wave the Trust worked ‘extremely hard’, he said, to increase its capacity for elective surgeries.

In line with high surge plans the capacity for elective surgeries has now been reduced.

The Trust is protecting 10 beds for on a daily basis for clinically urgent and red flag patients and that is reviewed every day.

Mr Gillespie explained: “We’ve had to delay 39 procedures, primarily in the areas of orthopaedics and neurology.

“Of those 11 were red flag patients: four have since had their procedure, six have been booked and one remains outstanding.”

 Further stories will be published based on information provided at today's meeting.

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