Impact of Covid-19 is ‘extremely concerning’

Impact of Covid-19 is ‘extremely concerning’

20 January 2021

THE district’s most senior health chief has described the current impact of the coronavirus on services as “extremely serious”.

In a briefing paper circulated to local politicians, South Eastern Trust interim chief executive Seamus McGoran said the organisation is currently responding to the largest surge of the Covid-19 pandemic to date, with numbers expected to significantly increase this week province-wide.

With the health service currently dealing with the biggest surge in positive cases to date, it is bracing itself for a raging storm of more infections over the coming days.

Mr McGoran said the entire health and social care system has never been under greater strain, with staff under enormous pressure, working to treat the most sick and vulnerable.

He said it is anticipated this week that there will be a record number of patients in hospitals, resulting in the need for more staff to treat the increased numbers of people are sick, describing  this as “extremely concerning”, particularly given pre-existing staffing pressures and staff absence due to Covid-19 and other reasons.

“The current situation is impacting health and social care services right across the Trust,” Mr McGoran told politicians, highlighting the words of health minister Robin Swann who said recently that “normal business will be an impossibility””

The interim chief executive said the situation is impacting on service delivery, resulting in difficult decisions being taken in relation to elective care, patient appointments and the delivery of some services.

“In order to get through the coming weeks, we will have to ask staff once again to step forward and support frontline services,” said Mr McGoran.

“This may mean redeployments to another working environment. Support will be available to redeployed staff and we are working closely with our trade union colleagues in this regard. We know that our staff are already exhausted and are continuing to go above and beyond to provide the best possible care they can to our patients in very challenging conditions.

“We will be doing everything we can to try and support our staff through this very difficult time and I thank them all so much for everything they are doing.”

Mr McGoran said the health trust is also asking patients and their families to work with the organisation to facilitate prompt discharge from hospital. 

“Without exception, when patients no longer need to be in hospital, they will be discharged home or to a step down facility,” he said. 

“This is essential to ensure that every possible bed is available for those patients who need them most. We are also asking the public to continue to comply with the guidance to reduce Covid-19 transmission.”

Mr McGoran said a regional approach has been established for the delivery of many health and social care services at this time, to ensure that any available capacity is allocated for those patients most in need.

“We will do everything that we possibly can to deal with the situation that is unfolding. It will most definitely not be easy and, unfortunately, it is likely that during the incoming weeks we will not be able to care for everyone in the way we would want to, but we will do our best and we will support our staff to do their best. Seriously ill patients whether Covid or non-Covid will always be prioritised.”

The health chief said coronavirus vaccines provide long-term hope about getting on top of the pandemic, with the South Eastern Trust fully committed to delivering the vaccine as quickly as possible.

He revealed that prior to Christmas, the organisation completed the rollout of the first dose vaccine programme to all 115 care home residents and staff in the area and is currently delivering the second dose programme, vaccinating residents and staff in 64 of these homes to date with the hope of completing this phase by mid-February 2021.

Mr McGoran said the current lockdown offers the opportunity to shorten the duration of the current surge, urging politicians to share with members of the public how they too can play their part by following all government guidelines, staying at home, practising social distancing, washing hands thoroughly and wearing face coverings.