Whiteabbey Hospital: 'Covid rehab' centre stood down

By Lesley Anne McKeown

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The Nightingale rehabilitation facility at Whiteabbey Hospital is being stood down for Covid patients, the Northern Trust has confirmed.

The 100-bed facility opened last November as a "step down" hospital for people well enough to leave acute hospital but not ready to return home.

It is understood 145 Covid patients were treated there.

The trust has said it will now become a regional non-Covid enhanced rehabilitation unit.

Each patient treated at the hospital spent about two-weeks receiving intensive rehabilitation.

Health Minister Robin Swann said the centre was a "prime example" of the health service "adapting at pace" to challenges brought on by the pandemic.

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"The staff at the hospital have provided exceptional levels of nursing and enhanced therapy care during a time of immense pressure and I thank everyone involved for their commitment and dedication during these exceptional times," he said.

The Northern Trust has said the Whiteabbey Nightingale saved "1,654 bed days in the acute setting" at a time when the majority of hospitals across Northern Ireland were operating above capacity.

Wendy Magowan, from the Northern Trust, added: "The Whiteabbey Nightingale has had tremendous results not only in saving acute capacity but also in terms of patient outcomes and experience which has been overwhelmingly positive.

"This model shows that specialist teams working in a dedicated facility accelerates rehabilitation and enables patients to return to their baseline mobility, or as close as possible, much quicker.

"This is obviously hugely beneficial to patients but it also reduces the community input upon discharge so in effect it saves resources both in acute hospitals and in community services."

The retention of the model at Whiteabbey Nightingale means there is sufficient flexibility to quickly revert to a Covid-19 model should inpatient numbers increase again.

Longer-term legacy arrangements are still being explored.