Covid-19: Patient waits 28 hours as hospitals struggle

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There were queues of ambulances outside Antrim Area Hospital on Tuesday night

Hospitals in Northern Ireland are continuing to face severe pressures after a night which saw queuing ambulances outside hospitals across NI.

On Wednesday morning there were 48 people in the emergency department at Antrim Area hospital.

An emergency department consultant from the Ulster Hospital said one patient there had waited 28 hours for a bed.

Speaking on BBC's Evening Extra, Sean McGovern, said: "That patient is still waiting, they're waiting within the emergency department.

"People are maybe waiting on a bed in a designated area within the emergency department, or waiting on a trolley."

At 11:25 GMT, there were 34 people waiting to be admitted to the Ulster Hospital, with 30 waiting more than 12 hours, according to a spokesperson for the South Eastern Trust.

The spokesperson said there were 59 patients at the hospital's emergency department, with one waiting outside in an ambulance.

Five of the patients had been in the department for between four and 12 hours.

There have also been long waits at Antrim Hospital on Wednesday, with 48 people in the emergency department at 07:00 GMT.

Of these, 43 were waiting to be admitted, with 29 of those people who have been waiting for more than 12 hours.

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Hundreds of hospital staff from across NI are also isolating for Covid-related reasons

In a statement, the trust said it was "not a situation that anyone wants to see", adding that the hospital remained under "severe pressure".

"We sincerely apologise to the patients affected and their families. Staff are working very hard to try to manage the situation and maintain flow," the trust said.

At hospitals in Belfast, 39 were awaiting admission - 29 more than 12 hours.

In the Western Trust, 34 were awaiting admission - all 34 waiting more than 12 hours.

In the Southern Trust hospitals, 60 were waiting admission but no figure for length of wait is known.

The British Medical Association in Northern Ireland said the pressures on hospitals were "extremely concerning".

A spokesperson said: "I have spoken to many secondary care colleagues over the past few days who are very worried as to how hospitals are going to cope over the next few days and weeks, and the decisions they may have to take over how people are cared for."

'Significant queues'

Medical Director with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Dr Nigel Ruddell said there had been 30 to 35 ambulances outside Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland on Tuesday night.

He said they were "the most significant queues" he had seen in the 12 years he had worked for the ambulance service.

"What we are seeing reflects the pressure of the normal increase in illness, particularly among the elderly and, of course, the pressures of Covid," he told BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

Dr Ruddell thanked the hospital and ambulance staff, and said it had taken a "massive effort overnight" to clear queues outside hospitals.

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Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme on Wednesday, Wendy Magowan, the Northern Health Trust operations director, said "whilst it has improved dramatically overnight we are still starting out this morning with a very low base rate".

There are also hundreds of staff isolating for Covid-related reasons.

So far, 366 staff from the Southern Trust are isolating as are 681 from Belfast Trust, 324 from the Western Trust, 307 from the South Eastern Trust and 289 from the Northern Trust.

Health Minister Robin Swann is to bring new proposals about Covid restrictions to Thursday's executive meeting.

The meeting will see ministers look at options to manage the spread of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

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There were 17 ambulances queued at Antrim Hospital at 17:00 GMT on Tuesday

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said Sinn Féin "will support any proposals brought forward by the health minister to tackle the current situation."

Stronger guidance has been issued by London and the devolved governments about how people should celebrate Christmas this year.

Relaxed rules between 23 December and 27 December are to stay in place.

Mrs Foster and Ms O'Neill spoke to leaders from the other governments earlier and more guidance from the executive is expected later in the week.

Covid compliance

The big issue is not so much what they agree when it comes to restrictions, but the fact that compliance is not where it should be.

The health service has stepped forward and they're hoping that they're going to listen to the voices that we heard last night with ambulances queued outside the hospitals.

Health Minister Robin Swann is going to be bringing recommendations to the executive on Thursday for a decision around restrictions and the likelihood is that we will see, perhaps, an partial lockdown started after Christmas.

We could be looking at, maybe, 28 December.

The key concern is that we may be heading for a third wave at a point when our hospitals are saturated.

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