THE Western Trust has said it will not be cancelling any 'red flag' or cancer surgeries, it was revealed during a media briefing last Thursday, July 29. 

However, the Trust did postpone 29 in-patient procedures between July 13 and 27, 11 of these being 'red flag', or urgent, procedures.

The majority of these postponed surgeries have now been rescheduled or completed. At the time of the briefing, one patient was waiting to have their surgery rebooked, and ten beds in the Western Trust had been ringfenced for red flag surgery and clinically urgent procedures.

Anne Donaghy, Assistant Director for Operations for the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) and Omagh Hospital, reflected on the current situation across the region, saying: "Figures have been increasing on almost a daily basis.”

The SWAH's figures showed that on June 25, there were four Covid-19 patients in the hospital, but by July 27 there were 17 Covid-19 patients in the SWAH, with two in ICU.

The Trust was unable to provide the media briefing with data based on vaccinated and unvaccinated Covid-19 patients, but emphasised the importance of vaccination as a means to avoid being hospitalised.

Speaking on the recent works completed by the Trust to treat Covid-19 patients, Mrs. Donaghey said: “On site in April in the SWAH, we took the opportunity to upgrade our respiratory wards, and the work was completed successfully, which means an enhanced environment for the patients to be treated in."

As part of these works, a surge area has been developed in the Emergency Department (ED).

Mrs. Donaghey said: "We have had access to a surge area for our ED, to enable ambulatory patients to be seen quicker, and turned around quicker to be back home again.”

The briefing also revealed that the Trust is concerned about an unprecedented rise in referrals to the ED.

Mrs. Donaghy said: “Admissions have increased as people are trying to retain some sense of normality. That would account for the rise in admissions [as [people] are getting back to normal life.”

The briefing further detailed that ED attendance has increased dramatically at the SWAH, with a 27 per cent rise in attendance from June, 2020 to June, 2021.

The numbers also show a rise of 8 per cent from pre-covid attendance in June, 2019 (3,335 attendances to June, 2021 (3,586).

Mrs. Donaghey noted that "any spare bed capacity in the SWAH has been offered to other hospitals in the [Western] Trust [Area] such as Altnagelvin, and the region, as beds for red flag surgeries and in-patient procedures”.

The Department of Health data for Thursday, July 29 showed there were no free beds in the SWAH, and the hospital was working at 104.12 per cent capacity.

Western Trust Medial Director, Dr. Catherine McDonnell, said: “Our workforce are critically important, many of them are on much deserved annual leave.

"There are many who live within the community and are suffering from Covid-19, as many people are, and some people are also social contacts, which will cause them to [self] isolate.

"There are major demands on our workforce to meet what’s coming in the door.

“Community transmission of Covid-19 remains high, and there has been an impact on the Western Trust as staff are isolating, as a result of contacting Covid-19 or else being a close contact of someone who has caught Covid-19.”

More than 10 per cent of Western Trust staff are currently off work, due in part to annual leave and to the impact of Covid-19.

Workforces that have been impacted by this include pharmacy, booking teams, nursing staff and medical staff.