HSC Plans to Respond to Coronavirus
The Health and Social Care system (HSC) is working collectively and intensively on dealing with Coronavirus.
The Department of Health, Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) are working closely with Trusts, primary care providers and key partners to plan ahead for a range of potential scenarios.
The emergency measures outlined in the UK Government action plan (published today) will apply to Northern Ireland, if needed.
It is normal practice to plan for worst case scenarios. This does not mean these outcomes are expected or likely. This is an important point to underline.
At this stage, the focus remains on containment, with all efforts being made to avoid the spread of infection between people.
All Trusts have in place robust arrangements to test for Coronavirus.
Trusts have identified the hospital location and ward areas that will be utilised if a number of people need to be admitted because of Coronavirus. This is vital in ensuring that those patients can be appropriately treated. It will also protect other vulnerable hospital patients from the risk of infection.
Detailed attention is being given to ensure staff safety and welfare issues are fully addressed.
We would like to thank all of our staff across the HSC system who are working tirelessly to contain the spread of Coronavirus and protect communities across Northern Ireland.
- All Trusts have in place robust arrangements to test for Coronavirus. These vary across each Trust area, but include specialist pods, separate and designated areas in existing buildings, and also arrangements in place so people can be tested without having to get out of their car.
- Patients who need admission to hospital during this containment phase will be admitted to specialist facilities and cared for within isolation rooms that have negative pressure, meaning they are designed to prevent the air from the room escaping into the wider environment. However, such facilities can only be used to manage relatively small numbers of admissions.
- As part of any future mitigation phase, should it be required, the HSC is planning for the possibility of the infection spreading within the community. If that is the case both primary care and hospital services will need to see and treat more people. The advice to the public will also change as appropriate.
- The current planning for hospital care is paying particular attention to addressing how intensive care facilities can be best used; how acute ward based care can be optimised; and how maternity, neonatal services and paediatric services can respond to the pressures.
- The HSC is also planning for the possibility of reduced staffing in hospitals and the community as a result of Coronavirus in order to mitigate against these risks.
- Depending on the pressures in the system in the months ahead, Trusts may have to consider postponing routine elective appointments and surgeries to focus on the immediate demands associated with Coronavirus.
- In primary care there are plans being developed to ensure that GPs and community pharmacists are able to respond effectively to the anticipated increased demand that will arise if Coronavirus spreads within the wider community.