New Covid-19 centres to open in Northern Health Trust area

Three Covid-19 centres are to open in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area in response to the coronavirus crisis which is expected to peak around mid-May, it has been been stated.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 9:13 pm
The Trust has been looking at how it might maximise available critical care capacity within its own hospitals.

The new centres will be in Antrim, Ballymena and Coleraine.

The health trust says these will not be testing facilities and will only be for patients who are “very unwell, are suspected of having Covid-19 and require medical attention”.

It  has been working in partnership with GPs to set up Covid-19 centres as part of a network across the northern region to manage the increased incidence of coronavirus cases in the community.

The health trust has confirmed that plans for the ‘surge’ phase of Covid-19,  during which the number of positive cases is expected to rise “considerably” and to  reach a peak around mid-May, are “evolving all the time to take account of predicted requirements for critical care facilities”.

Dr Seamus O’Reilly, Medical director in the Northern Trust, said: “As has already been indicated, Northern Ireland will require significantly more critical care capacity than is currently available. This is actively being considered at a regional level.

“Although there has been considerable modelling done within the Trust to look at how we might maximise available critical care capacity within our own hospitals, it would be premature for us to say anything more at this point given that things could change very quickly.”

In addition, the health trust says it is prioritising resources to support the most vulnerable in the community. This has involved reviewing all domiciliary provision with families to identify what care they are able to provide for their relatives in “exceptional and very challenging times”.

The Trust has stated “this should free up domiciliary capacity to focus on those who require critical care which cannot be met by any other means during this Covid-19 period”.

Phil Hughes, the Trust’s director of Community Care, explained: “We will work with families to arrange for contingency placements in care homes on a temporary basis for individuals where there is concern that the level of frailty and risk would indicate that this is the most appropriate way to provide care during this period or where the current care arrangements are unable to be sustained.

“We are also working to increase capacity in the community or care placements within our own community hospitals and residential units, in addition to working with the care home sector.

“The stepping down of non-critical interventions is allowing us to free up capacity of community nurses, social workers, care staff and allied health professionals.”

It is expected the Covid-19 centres will help to free up GP services to deal with the pandemic, “whilst balancing the need for primary care services to continue with the minimum of disruption”.

The Trust added: “New centres will open in Antrim, Ballymena and Coleraine and the emphasis will be on patient safety, staff safety and the provision of a sustainable primary care service.”

 A spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said: “Since closing to the public, we have maintained and cleaned facilities across our leisure and community complexes so they could be available for use as part of any wider community response.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.