The Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) is appealing to families of patients to help in “expediting discharge when possible”, as South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) continues to face extreme pressure.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the SWAH was operating over a quarter above capacity operating at 27.3 per cent over capacity.

Despite there being “no extenuating staff pressures”, The Western Trust have said that SWAH Emergency Department (ED) “is extremely busy at the present time and under pressure to deliver an effective service in an already stretched system."

One issue that appears to be causing backlog in SWAH is the issue of care packages not being available for patients to be discharged to.

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Some patients may be transferred from SWAH to other hospitals if they need further treatment, a Trust spokesperson said: “We urge the assistance of families and carers in expediting discharge when possible. In the event that a patient requires further rehabilitation, consideration should be given as to the most suitable option for the patient which may include transfer to another hospital.”

If there are delays with discharging patients it can lead to other patients having to wait for longer to be admitted.

A Trust spokesperson said: “There continues to be delays to discharging patients within the Hospital. This means that there are fewer beds to admit patients into and patients that require admission are waiting longer in the Emergency Department for admission. The number of patients waiting greater than 12 hours is increasing with a peak of 29 patients waiting greater than 12 hours within a 24-hour period from Thursday April 14 to Friday April 22, compared to a peak of 10 over the same Easter period in 2021.”

Regarding transfer to nursing homes, the Western Trust spokesperson said: “If a patient requires a place in a nursing or residential care home and a home of their choice is not immediately available, the patient will be transferred to an alternative home until a bed becomes available in their preferred care home.”

If care packages are not immediately available, families will have to support patients who have been discharged. The Western Trust spokesperson explained how this would work: “In the event that a patient requires a new or increased package of care and this is not immediately available, family members will be required to support the patient upon discharge until the package of care is available. Alternatively, a patient may be offered the option of transferring to a care home to await the provision of the package of care.”

This information from The Trust comes as almost 1,000 patients attended SWAH ED over the Easter period. A Western Trust spokesperson said: “The level of patients being accommodated within the Emergency Department are unprecedented.

“Over the period from Thursday April 14 to Friday April 22, there were 959 attendances at the Emergency Department, compared to 824 patients over the same period across Easter 2021, some 135 patients more.”

“During the same timeframe there were 157 patients admitted to the Hospital with 134 patients admitted during the same Easter period in 2021, 23 more patients than last year.”

Addressing if staffing had caused this pressure on ED, a Western Trust spokesperson said: “There were no extenuating staff pressures over the Easter period that contributed to the current Emergency Department situation. There is no differences in our vacancy rate or absence rate since last year. All staff have been working tirelessly to see and treat all patients as quickly as possible”