Covid-19: Belfast Trust to cancel some surgeries

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The total number of Covid-19 related hospital admissions in the Belfast Trust have doubled over the last week

The Belfast Trust is to cancel a number of orthopaedic procedures next week due to the pressures caused by the recent rise in Covid-19 admissions.

All patients affected will be notified by phone and offered a rescheduled date as soon as possible, the trust said.

The trust currently has 71 Covid-19 inpatients.

Earlier it said that more than 60% of people admitted to hospital in Belfast in recent weeks due to Covid-19 have not been vaccinated.

The trust's medical director, Chris Hagan, said the number of Covid positive patients in Belfast hospitals has doubled in a week and there were also "rising numbers of young patients" in the 20-39 age group.

Mr Hagan said there has been "significant pressure" on services.

The trust said the decision on non-time critical elective orthopaedic surgeries would "relieve some pressure on our bed capacity and, most importantly, will ensure we can maintain safe staffing levels across the rest of our sites".

On Friday morning, Mr Hagan warned that if Covid numbers continue to rise, "next week we will more than likely have to take decisions to reduce some of our normal work and ultimately that will have an impact on waiting times which is the last thing we want to do".

On Wednesday, 1,337 positive cases in Northern Ireland were reported by the Department of Health.

Last week three deaths linked to Covid-19 were recorded by the Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency (Nisra), bringing the total number of deaths recorded by the agency since the onset of the pandemic to 2,991.

Nisra's records are based on mentions of the virus on death certificates when it may or may not have been confirmed by way of a test.

'Young people still getting sick'

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Hagan explained that the "highest number of infections" are in the 20-39 age group.

Currently, around 44% of those aged 18-30 have not taken up the offer of vaccination.

"Learning to live with Covid-19 doesn't mean pretending it doesn't exist - it means getting vaccinated," Mr Hagan said.

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The total number of hospital admissions in the Belfast Trust have doubled over the last week, from 27 to 60

The Belfast Trust official added that while young people are less likely to die from the virus, they are "still getting sick, young people are still being admitted to hospital".

"I don't know how much more evidence people want," said Mr Hagan.

"The risk of dying may be small, but the risk of long-Covid is there as well as the risk to others - family and friends."

Mr Hagan paid tribute to the "tired workforce", adding that around 480 out of 22,000 staff are off work "due to Covid-related illness".

"If it's going to keep rising at this rate, it's going to impact the work that we would normally do," he added.

The Public Health Agency's (PHA) Dr David Cromie urged people to come forward to get vaccinated.

"The vaccine is not 100% effective," he explained, adding "even if their parents and grandparents have been vaccinated, young people can do more by being vaccinated themselves".

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Visiting restrictions are to remain in place at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.

In the north west, restrictions on hospital visits are to remain in place until at least 30 July due to the number of coronavirus cases in the area.

The Western Trust said it will continue to monitor and review visiting arrangements in response to a rise in hospital admissions and "the significant rise in community transmission of Covid-19".

One visitor is permitted once a week for one hour, at Londonderry's Altnagelvin and Waterside hospitals, with some exceptions, the trust said.

Visits at other sites including the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, Grangewood and Lakeview in Derry and Omagh Hospital, are operating on a one visitor, one visit for one hour daily.

Visiting is permitted for patients in end of life care, while on the trust's paediatric wards, a parent is allowed to be at their child's bedside.

There are currently 34 Covid-19 patients in Altnagelvin and a further 14 patients in the South West Acute Hospital, the trust said.

'We can't deliver services as normal'

Northern Ireland is currently sitting at 163 Covid-19 inpatients and that means that health services are undoubtedly being affected, the chair of NI's GP committee has said.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Dr Alan Stout of the British Medical Association said "the next two to three weeks is going to be critical".

"We all want to get back to normal, we want our lives back to normal and we want to get our health service back to normal.

"We know the pressure there is to get GP appointments, trying to get hospital appointments, the waiting lists and delayed surgeries.

"Even the level we are at the moment in hospital with patients in hospital we can't deliver services as normal - it's as simple as that," the GP said.

"It's the impact of those increasing [Covid-19 case] numbers, the increasing illness and the impact on every other other health condition.

"We know already from the past 18 to 19 months and we're just simply going to be back in that position."