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Public praised as Western Trust says the local area has not experienced the expected surge in COVID-19 cases

Hospital chiefs also pay tribute to 'magnificent' work of healthcare staff

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Western Trust confirms testing for staff

The Western Trust today said the local area has not experienced the expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

At present, there are six people being treated at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry after testing positive for the disease.

Geraldine McKay, the Western Trust's Director of Acute Hospitals, said that the number of COVID-19 patients at Altnagelvin was 'very reduced' in comparison to what they have been.

There have been 26 deaths from COVID-19 in recent months in the Western Trust's two acute hospitals at Altnagelvin and the South West hospital in Enniskillen.

There have been further deaths in local care homes but a breakdown of deaths in individual care homes has not been made public.

The Western Trust said that there had been COVID-19 outbreaks in 11 care homes in the Trust area.

An outbreak is defined as two or more cases.

Ms McKay said the lower than anticipated number of cases and deaths locally was due to the co-operation of the public and the 'magnificent' work of healthcare staff.

As part of the preparations for the expected rise in COVID-19 cases, the number of intensive care beds at Altnagelvin Hospital had been increased from 10 to 24.

However, Ms McKay said the intensive care unit never had to work at full capacity over the recent period.

She said that the number of people attending Altnagelvin's emergency department had decreased by almost 50% over recent months after people were asked to stay away from the hospital as much as possible to allow staff to cope with the COVID-19 situation.

Ms McKay praised the public for their support for the health service and highlighted how well people locally had taken on board the message to stay at home and maintain social distancing when out in public.

She said this had played a vital role in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths lower than had been anticipated.

"People have really done what we asked of them," she said.

Ms McKay said the Trust was now looking at how to manage the 'new normal' for hospital services, taking into consideration issues such as social distancing in waiting areas and the use of personal protection equipment for staff.

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