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Hospitals across Northern Ireland facing further pressures this summer

2021-08-13

Hospitals across Northern Ireland are continuing to experience immense pressures dealing with increased demand for urgent and emergency care, coupled with rising Covid-19 infections.

Firstly , we would pay tribute to our incredibly resilient staff who continue to work tirelessly through this challenging time to ensure that patients receive the high quality of care that they need and we would ask the public to please be kind to our staff. Once again they find themselves in an untenable position and once again they are rising to extraordinary challenges.

The number of COVID-19 positive patients in hospital has been increasing. A sizeable proportion of these patients are unvaccinated – including younger people and pregnant women.

Of all Covid patients in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) yesterday (August 12), 60% were not vaccinated at all and 13% had only received one vaccine.

We have also had cases in recent weeks of unvaccinated pregnant women needing ICU care and emergency caesarean sections.

The reality is that health and social care services across NI have been under sustained and growing pressure for many weeks.

The number of patients on respiratory support has increased and is likely to translate into further ICU pressures over the coming days and weeks.

Action is therefore needed now to increase the number of ICU beds, to ensure there are sufficient numbers of beds to meet additional demand for critical care that we are experiencing. The only way to expand ICU beds is to further redeploy specialist staff to look after critical care patients, as a result it is sadly inevitable that more planned procedures may be postponed to enable this.

We apologise to all those affected. This is a matter of extreme regret for everyone across our health and social care system and it is always our last resort to postpone procedures. Patients affected will be informed by their local Trust and all postponed procedures will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Every effort will be made to protect time critical surgery. It should be stressed, however, that complex surgery cannot proceed if ICU beds are not guaranteed for patients post-operation. It is simply not safe to operate in those circumstances.

The Health and Social Care system’s Regional Critical Care Hub, set up to manage ICU units on a NI-wide basis, is meeting daily to deal with the current situation.

Other factors behind the current health and social care pressures include:

We again need the public’s support to help us ease escalating health care concerns;

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