The Chief Executive of the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) has thanked the public for the efforts and sacrifices they have made during the Covid-19 pandemic and has asked them to “bear with us” as the Trust goes about rebuilding and restarting services.

Last Tuesday, the WHSCT launched the first stage of its rebuilding plan as the first peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in Northern Ireland has passed.

It will focus on how to restart services while maintaining sufficient flexibility so that our services can respond to future waves of the disease.

The plan will focus on supporting strong community services for frail and older people; preparing for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health services; managing risk and providing Covid-19 safe services for staff and service users and involving staff and service users.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday, June 12, about the rebuilding plan, Mrs. Kilgallen said: “It’s a very, very challenging time. The minister (Robin Swann) was very clear we were challenged before Covid came and Covid adds a further challenge to us.”

As the Trust sets about reestablishing and restarting services the Chief Executive said that it is likely many of the services will look very different in the future and they want the public to help design and influence those services.

“Tell us what worked well and also tell us where some of the new design is not fully meeting people’s needs.

“Our service will continue to work as closely as we can with people to ensure even though they look and feel different, if anything they’re a better fit to meet the needs of people than they have ever been before.”

Mrs. Kilgallen, Bob Brown Executive Director of Nursing / Primary Care and Older People’s services and Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Hospitals also paid tribute to the rapid response of Trust staff at a very difficult time.

Mr. Brown praised care home staff and managers they have worked with over the last number of months and said the Trust now wants to build on the practices they have put in place “through strengthening the prevention work in care homes, mitigating when there are risks and concerns regarding Covid and non-Covid situations and building their overalls resilience into the future”.

Mrs. McKay said the speed at which frontline workers reacted to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the cohesion of everybody working together was one of the lessons learned.

“It ramped up very, very quickly. We have had a pandemic plan for a number of years and actually putting it in place by the frontline staff was just eye opening.

“They just stepped up and really went with it. They arranged their own wards and they obviously followed the plan.

“They just came together, directorates and boundaries just disappeared. People all worked together and I think one of biggest lesson learned for me how we are really successful when we all work together as one team.”

But despite the progress that has been made in curtailing the virus, Mrs. Kilgallen also urged the public to remain cautious to avoid another increase in infection.

“Covid-19 remains a public health risk to our population. Although at the moment all the of the signals are that the infection rates are low, nonetheless the virus is in our community and if we do not continue to pay attention to social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette we will very quickly find ourselves facing an increase in infection.”

As well as praise for the public the Trust are also looking at ways of recognising the fantastic work and sacrifices made by staff throughout the pandemic.

A copy of the rebuilding plan – Stage One can you be found on the Trust website