Attendances at emergency departments in the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) are beginning to return to the levels before the coronavirus outbreak.

Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Hospitals, said the South West Acute Hospital is seeing between 90 and 100 patients on average per day.

GP referrals and other access points across all services were well down in March and April, according to Mrs. McKay but activity has been increasing in May and June.

“We haven’t reset our services yet within the hospital,” explained Mrs. McKay. “We haven’t reinstated outpatients, we are only seeing the urgent red flags and we haven’t really started day cases surgery or inpatients unless they are cancers or unless they were maintained throughout the pandemic.

“So were are working really hard to get it all up and running as quickly as possible but actually it looks like activity is starting to return to pre-covid levels.”

As part of the rebuilding plan the priority is to restart with any red flags services which were suspended due to the pandemic but also urgent and time critical patients who have been waiting a long time.

“Regionally I suppose there is no elective plan at the minute in terms of the bigger picture.

“The long, long waits that we know about and have been there for a number of years and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us going forward as a Trust.”

The Trust are looking at utilising full theatre capacity across the three sites but there will be reduced services due to compliance around the use of PPE, the social distancing within areas and turnover and cleaning required.

“There is a lot of impact still to come from patients and at the minute we are in the planning stage but we hope to get up and running very, very quickly.

“What we are trying to do is use all our capacity across all our trust sites as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

The WHSCT rebuilding plan is also preparing for the impact of Covid-19 on mental health services and Trust Chief Executive, Anne Kilgallen believes working with organisations across the sector will be vital in delivering this plan.

While Mental Health services continued throughout the the Covid-19 outbreak, Mrs. Kilgallen said the Trust would be looking at the mental health action plan published by Health Minister, Robin Swann, which had the requirement within it to work with community and voluntary sector “strengthening resilience in communities” and then focussing resources to respond to the needs of the public.

Mrs. Kilgallen said that the Trust may look for additional funding but first and foremost they will use their own resources.

“We will very much look at the resources we have locally and re-orientating those to get maximum effect for people.

“Also looking across the region because the Minister’s framework published makes clear that the only way that we would be able to properly respond is by working together across the region, so part of what we will be doing is looking at sharing resources across the region and where that might bring benefit to the local population.

“And then yes if there are issues that require additional resources we will of course have to make the case for that.”