Northern Ireland

NI Newspaper review: Winter tightens grip on hospitals

Mirror front page Image copyright Trinity Mirror

Hospitals make the front pages on Wednesday morning as winter tightens its grip on NHS services.

The Irish News reports that managers at Antrim Area Hospital resorted to getting volunteers from St John's Ambulance service to help provide care during "severe staff shortages" and "a spike in A&E demand on 31 December.

St John's staff were deployed across wards as well as the casualty department, with trust chiefs describing the volume of patients as "unprecedented", the paper reports.

Janice Smyth, head of the Royal College of Nursing, told the Irish News it was the first time charity volunteers had ever been asked to carry out basic nursing duties in any hospitals in Northern Ireland.

Image copyright Twitter/South Eastern Trust

She warned the development exposed a "gross shortage" of nurses in the health service.

The paper reports that off-duty nurses and healthcare assistants were asked to come to work in social media appeals.

The pressure comes as cases of Australian flu have been reported.

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Volunteers from St John's Ambulance helped during 'severe staff shortages' at Antrim Area Hospital

The Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland said a "small number" of people have died in the last two weeks after contracting the strain.

On the front page of the Belfast Telegraph is the claim that one casualty unit saw 332 patients in one day.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption A 'small number' of people have reportedly died in the last two weeks after contracting Australian Flu

The accident and emergency department at the Ulster Hospital is described as "swamped".

The paper looks at patient numbers for 23 October, when the hospital reportedly saw "roughly one person every four minutes".

The South Eastern Trust told the paper it was "under unprecedented pressure" and former Northern Ireland health minister Michael McGimpsey said the situation was "deplorable".

However, in contrast to the Northern Trust, the Southern Trust said it did not bring in volunteers from St John's Ambulance.

The Belfast Telegraph also looks at the staffing situation in a comment piece under the headline "overworked nurses in tears and people with no hope of being seen".

The paper shares the story of one anonymous member of staff, who claimed patients were "lying all over the place on trolleys, but there was nowhere for them to go".

The staff member also claimed she saw nurses "crying" over the situation.

Storm toll

The Mirror leads with Storm Eleanor and its impact on Tuesday night.

Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Fallen tree on Dee Street, Belfast

At least 12,000 homes were left without power and emergency services were on high alert as gusts of up to 90mph hit Northern Ireland.

The News Letter reports on the toll of the storm too - with photographs showing trees which had been brought down in Belfast.

Also in the News Letter is praise for Lucy Parke who died on 1 January.

The eight-year-old from Ballyward, County Down, had progeria, an ageing condition.

Progeria Research Foundation executive director Meryl Fink told the News Letter the rapid-ageing disease sees children dying of heart attacks and strokes.

"You'll see children with progeria experience a loss of hair, advanced cardiovascular disease and contractures of joints - these are some of the symptoms that track the typical ageing process," she said.

"The rest of their development tracks their age in terms of their likes, dislikes and their personalities."

Ms Fink praised Miss Parke's family for raising the profile of the disease and said "children like Lucy were the inspiration to carry on our research and ultimately find a cure".