Health chiefs expect the number of Covid-19 patients in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry to 'double' from the third week in January.
The Western Trust say they are facing 'unprecedented pressures' due to the escalating rate of infection of COVID-19 and the subsequent increasing numbers of COVID-19 positive patients in hospitals.
The Trust is already at a peak in terms of COVID-19 patient numbers and projections are indicating that from the third week of January 2021, that number could be set to ‘double’.
Speaking about current hospital pressures, Western Trust Director of Acute Hospitals, Geraldine McKay, said: “The number of COVID-19 inpatients is again increasing at both Altnagelvin Hospital and the South West Acute Hospital.
“We expect these numbers to steadily increase throughout January and possibly into February.
“This is putting extreme pressure on the hospital system, including our workforce and is causing us great concern.
“This is not a simple matter of putting up more beds. Beds require staff to care for patients and pre-existing staffing pressures and staff absence of 11% and increasing daily mean that those staff simply aren’t there.
“We have therefore taken the very regrettable, but necessary decision to announce as of today that routine elective inpatient, outpatient and day case surgeries will be postponed until further notice.
“Red flag and some time critical procedures and clinics will continue, but will be reviewed daily.
“However, we are under no allusion that if the number of COVID positive patients continue to increase at the rates predicted the Trust will have no option but to move to perform emergency and trauma surgery only (this will not include cancer/red-flag surgery) in order to safeguard the capacity needed within our hospital to continue the fight against COVID-19.
“Staff will be redeployed to areas where they are needed the most and they will continue to be supported throughout.
“The Western Trust is currently in the process of contacting all affected patients directly.”
Mrs McKay continued: “No-one should be attending an Emergency Department at any time unless they require emergency care.
“Patients will also need to leave hospital as soon as they are medically fit to leave.
“This may mean that patients/families accepting a placement where it is available and it might also mean families and carers having to provide temporary support for their relatives.”
Mrs McKay said every single member of their staff were yet again rising to the extreme challenges of this third surge and added that 'we again thank them for their tremendous efforts'.
“However, our thanks is not enough,” she said.
“We are all in this together and we need every single member of the public to play their role in reducing infections rates and the pressures on our health and Social Care System. Please follow the lockdown guidance and stay at home.”
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