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O'Neill warns North is experiencing 'worst-case scenario' as hospital admissions set to surge

Health chiefs warned that the number of Covid-19 patients being treated in hospital could double by the third week in January.

Image: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

Updated Jan 11th 2021, 2:20 PM

NORTHERN IRELAND IS currently experiencing its pandemic worst case scenario, the deputy First Minister has warned.

A further 759 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland today and 16 more deaths. 

Michelle O’Neill said dire predictions made last March about the potential pressures the region’s health service could face were now coming true.

O’Neill said that while Northern Ireland had now passed the peak of new infections in the current Covid-19 wave, the associated surge in hospital admissions was still to come.

Her stark assessments came after health chiefs warned that the number of Covid-19 patients being treated in hospital could double by the third week in January.

The chief executives of Northern Ireland’s six health and social care trusts also released a joint statement outlining the “very serious” situation.

The Western Trust issued the appeal for the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen on Twitter. 

“Attention all off-duty staff in the vicinity of SWAH. Due to increasing pressures this evening on the NI Healthcare System, we are appealing to you to contact or go directly to the hospital,” the trust said yesterday. 

Three hours later, the Western Trust thanked staff who responded to the appeal and said the “situation has since stabilised”. 

The situation also intensified at the weekend in the Southern Trust area, where Covid-19 infection rates are currently highest in Northern Ireland.

Over the weekend, Craigavon Area Hospital and Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry were in danger of being swamped with new cases.

Off duty staff coming in to help treat the influx of patients helped avoid the declaration of a major incident.

Additionally, a joint statement from the NI health and social care trusts said that early last month, the trusts issued a “stark warning” about pressure across the system in NI.

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“At that time we stressed that several of Northern Ireland’s acute hospitals were already operating beyond capacity,” the statement said.

Within days, the pressure that the system was under was evident through the images shown across media outlets of multiple ambulances queuing outside Emergency Departments.

The statement said the situation is “very serious” with modelling predictions indicating that in the third week of January, health and social care “will be trying to contend with double the number of Covid positive patients compared to the current position today”. 

“Our staff, although exhausted, will once more go above and beyond to do the best they can for as many people as possible, and we thank them for it.

It will definitely not be easy and the care that we are able to provide will at times fall short of the high standards we normally deliver but we will do our very best.

“Desperately ill patients whether Covid or non-Covid will always be the ones being prioritised.”

Yesterday, 1,112 further Covid-19 cases and 17 deaths were confirmed in NI. 

A new “stay-at-home” order came into effect in the North on Friday. It means that police have the power to order people to return home if they are out without a reasonable reason.

This will remain in place until 6 February. 

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