Flu upsurge a factor in emergency rise

AN UPSURGE in flu cases, particularly among young adults, has contributed to a significant increase in the number of people attending the Emergency Department at Craigavon Area Hospital.

A spokesman for the hospital said there has also been a marked increase in the numbers of acutely ill patients, with much higher than normal numbers of patients requiring admission to hospital.

The situation has led to the cancellation of 14 routine operations as the Southern Health and Social Care Trust is forced to reorganise wards to accommodate the extra admissions.

Dr Gillian Rankin, Southern Trust director of acute services, said in the last week the trust had provided beds for 50 more patients than is normal at this time of year.

She added, “Last Thursday was exceptionally busy and unfortunately 17 patients waited longer than 12 hours in the Emergency Department at Craigavon. However, only one person has waited longer than 12 hours since then. From Thursday to Sunday, 788 patients attended the department.

“Given the pressures and to keep beds available in the hospital for emergency admissions, the trust has decided to cancel 14 routine operations. Emergency and all clinically urgent operations are continuing at the hospital.

“As part of our contingency plans, patients may be moved to other wards to increase available beds for acutely ill patients requiring admission.”

Extra staff have been drafted in to tackle the workload and meetings are taking place every day to manage the situation.

“If you have a minor ailment, a visit to your pharmacist may be all you need or you can attend a minor injuries unit for treatment of a minor condition like cuts, sprains, minor burns etc,” added Dr Rankin.

“GPs, or GP Out of Hours, and local pharmacists all provide non-emergency treatment in the community and I would urge people, where appropriate, to use those services instead.”

This week the Belfast Hospital Trust also said it was dealing with a rise in the number of flu patients.