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19/09/2021

People in Derry urged to think twice before visiting emergency department over winter after it emerges A&E at Altnagelvin dealing with 230 people every day

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UP to 230 people are visiting the Accident and Emergency department in Altnagelvin Hospital every day, it has emerged. The figure emerged at November's meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Health and Community meeting, where senior figures from the Western Trust were in attendance to discuss its Winter Resilience Plan 2018/19. Speaking at the meeting Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Hospitals with the Trust, said that ‘demands’ were already very high on its services as it had experienced an increase in the numbers of people attending the A&E department at Altnagelvin over the past year. She told the meeting that the eight per cent increase over the past year meant that the hospital was now dealing with 200 to 230 people on a daily basis, compared to a figure of 165 to 170 every day last year. Mrs McKay added that the bulk of people attending the department were Category 1 and Category 2 patients, who she said were the ‘sickest patients with the most complex needs’, adding that these patients would be in need of ‘immediate attention’, and required treatment within an hour. The meeting was told that the emergency department was facing additional pressures due to issues with gaining accesses to beds within the unit, adding that there also had been an increase in the numbers of people who have had to wait over 12 hours for treatment. Mrs McKay continued that it would be issuing an appeal through the media urging people to consider their condition before attending the local Accident and Emergency department. “We do believe there will be a tough winter ahead of us all, and we hope you can disseminate that information to people that they may not need to attend the Emergency Department,” she told the meeting. Mrs McKay also spoke of the extreme pressure placed on the department last winter due to the outbreak of the norovirus, and also urged people to take advice from their GPs on their condition before attending the A&E. However, she also stressed that if people do feel that they must attend the unit, then they should not ‘take any chances’. “Go to your GP and take the advice,” Mrs McKay said. “If you need to the be there (Accident and Emergency), then you need to there, because there are people who put off going there over the fear that there may be already large numbers there.”

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