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Hospitals across Northern Ireland to come under 'intense pressure' this week, health minister warns

Stormont’s health minister warned the current pressures are likely to move to intensive care units in ten days’ time.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann
Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann
Image: Liam McBurney via PA Images

HOSPITALS ACROSS NORTHERN Ireland will come under “intense pressure” across the next seven days, the region’s health minister has said.

Robin Swann was speaking as a GP warned that medical staff are facing pressures “unlike any other they have faced before” amid the pandemic.

There were 823 individuals in hospitals in the region with Covid-19 today, 65 of whom were being treated in intensive care.

“Unfortunately when we saw the number of positive cases two-three weeks ago, we knew this was what was in front of us,” Swann told the BBC.

“We know that the next seven days is when we will see that real intense pressure coming on our inpatients and our intensive care units.

“Our worst-case scenario has us modelling up to 1,200 inpatients, and that’s a serious pressure, but then also in the week to ten days that follow the additional pressures then that come on our ICU beds.”

Swann said there are surge plans for ICU to accommodate up to nearly 200 ICU beds.

“That comes at a stretch, that comes with putting our staff under severe pressure in ICU units,” he said, adding that would see specialist nurse/patient ratios go from 1:1 to 1:2-1:3.

“That’s not something we want to do but it’s something that we have modelled and built into that surge capacity.

“Today, we have 144 ICU beds across our system stood up and staffed, and that looks after not just Covid patients but also other patients who need ICU support.”

Dr Tom Black, head of the British Medical Association (BMA) in the region, said staff are doing their best, but many doctors feel they are unable to give care to the “standard they would want”.

Today, the Department of Health said a further 19 people who previously tested positive for coronavirus had died in Northern Ireland.

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Another 640 individuals have tested positive for the virus.

Some 146,733 coronavirus vaccinations had been administered in Northern Ireland, as of today.

This includes 125,717 first doses of the jab and 20,016 second doses.

Today also saw the holding of a Coroner’s Court in Northern Ireland’s Nightingale venue for facilitating courts and tribunals.

The inquest was the first hearing of any kind to take place at Belfast’s International Convention Centre (ICC) at the Waterfront Hall since it became a Nightingale venue earlier this month.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the move is a “significant milestone” in efforts to ensure that courts and tribunals can continue to operate safely and effectively during the pandemic.

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