COVID in-patient numbers high says health trust boss

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There is an “almighty number” of COVID-19 positive inpatients within Southern Health and Social Care Trust facilities at present, the organisation’s Chief Executive has said.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust Board, Shane Devlin, informed those present that the number of COVID-19 positive inpatients in Southern Trust sites over the past number of weeks is almost double the number seen in the first wave of the pandemic.

“In the first wave we had 62 inpatients who were positive for COVID-19,” said Mr Devlin. “Now, that has grown to an almighty number.

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“At the start of this month there were 118 COVID positive inpatients in our system.

Shane Devlin, Southern Health and Social Care Trust Chief Executive.Shane Devlin, Southern Health and Social Care Trust Chief Executive.
Shane Devlin, Southern Health and Social Care Trust Chief Executive.

“The vast majority are in Craigavon Area Hospital but there are also some in Lurgan and Daisy Hill.”

He also explained that the prevalence of COVID-19 within the community has resulted in an increased level of staff absences.

“There are a number of people absent due to COVID-19,” said Mr Devlin. “As of Wednesday, November 11, I had 560 staff absent as a result of COVID-19.

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“That doesn’t mean 560 staff have COVID-19, that number will include those who have to isolate as well.

“That is a very high level of staff absence and doesn’t even account for the number of staff off with other illness or those on maternity leave and obviously puts an enormous pressure on our system.”

Mr Devlin also explained that treating COVID-19 patients is an “intense and complex process” for the staff involved and claimed it may yet be too early to determine if the restrictions that have been in place for the last four week have worked as hoped.

“It is really important to state that these are not standard inpatients,” said Mr Devlin.

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“The average length of stay for a COVID-19 positive patient is 11 days, that is considerably longer than an average inpatient.

“It is intense and complex work, there are signs that the number of admissions are starting to plateau, but it is very early to say that.

“The impact of the first lockdown took weeks to have impact on hospital admissions. It started in March but peak bed occupancy was reached on April 21.

“We have had four weeks of further restrictions and it is only now we may be starting to see a potential downturn but it is too early to be certain about that.

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“For example in Mid Ulster, we saw community transmission begin to fall about two weeks ago but at the same time, we started to see hospital admissions rise.

“The impact of the steps that have been taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 have not yet been felt in our hospitals.”

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