Across Northern Ireland, staff absences and the increasing numbers of Covid cases in the community, due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, are putting an enormous strain on the health service.
Nicki Patterson said: “I would like to reach out to our patients and their families who use our services and who are currently in our hospitals. I want to thank you for all that you are doing to help us but I need to ask even more of you.
“Our staff are working incredibly hard but a combination of the pressures that every winter brings, staff absences due to Covid-19 and self-isolation, and the numbers of Covid positive patients in hospital, means we are struggling as never before.
“Every bed in our hospitals is precious. We need to use the beds we have and, more importantly the very stretched staff we have in our hospitals, to treat those who are so acutely ill that they need hospital care.
“The vast majority of patients who are waiting for a long time in our Emergency Departments, or indeed in ambulances waiting to get in, are there because they need to be admitted and are waiting for a hospital bed to become available.”
In a direct appeal for help, the director of nursing asked: “Once you, or your loved one has been assessed as no longer needing acute hospital treatment and care, we need to discharge you to make the bed available for the next patient needing admission from the Emergency Department.
“If you require the trust to provide help at home and it is not immediately available, we need you to go to a care home or to go home with family support whilst you await a care package.
“We can assure you that there will be no cost to you from such a care home placement and you won’t lose your place in any queue for your preferred longer term option.”
“I know this is a big ask and we are all weary of Covid and its impact on our lives but we need you to work with us.
“We are all in this together and every hour, every day counts when we are trying to ensure there are enough beds for those needing admission to hospital.”