Speaking at the November meeting of the board, Wendy Magowan, interim director of operations, advised members that although the “step down” facility can provide more than 70 beds, the Trust “can’t presently staff it”.
“We have said to regional colleagues, there is more space here if needed, if neighbouring Trusts require step down but we can’t presently staff it.
“We would need support to staff that facility. It is not only nursing staff but medical staff as well,” she said.
She went on to say that she has seen “some very good outcomes from Whiteabbey”.
The Nightingale unit opened at Whiteabbey Hospital last November as a “step down” facility for recovering Covid patients from across Northern Ireland.
It was established in response to “growing pressures on the system” as a result of the pandemic and opened following refurbishment of an existing building on the Newtownabbey site with capacity for 84 patients.
In April, the Northern Trust announced that the Whiteabbey Nightingale unit had been stood down. Health Minister Robin Swann praised staff for providing “exceptional levels of nursing and enhanced therapy care during a time of immense pressure”.
Commenting on a current “bed deficit”, the Northern Trust’s interim director of operations, reported that the Trust is working with the independent sector and care homes and has secured a contract for 15 beds and a further 33 beds “could potentially be available”.
“We are working to make sure any capacity available is secured,” she stressed.
In addition, she noted that some outpatient space at Antrim Hospital is to be converted to a “discharge lounge” which may be in place by the end of December.
Also addressing the meeting, chief executive Jennifer Welsh stressed that patients need to be discharged as soon as they are “medically fit” because hospital beds are “at an absolute premium”.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
Click here to read: Whiteabbey Nightingale stands down Covid-19 rehabilitation
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