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Belfast Trust statement on Intensive Care Units

13th October 2020

The number of patients in Belfast Trust hospitals who are Covid positive is continuing to rise, and more people are requiring specialist clinical care in the Intensive Care Units in both the Mater Hospital and Royal Victoria Hospital. We have made the extremely difficult decision to cancel elective surgery this week as we relocate and expand our Covid ICU from the Mater to the Belfast City Hospital Tower Block.

Today we need to expand our intensive care beds to Belfast City Hospital to cope with the increase of patients ventilated at the Mater Hospital. We are able to care for up to 11 ventilated patients at the Mater Hospital and currently we are caring for 10. Regrettably, the data tells us that we are likely to have more Covid positive ICU patients in the coming days. We therefore need to be in a position to continue to care for Covid positive ICU patients, and receive the next wave of intensive care patients into Belfast City Hospital.

To do this we need to have staff available and ready in Belfast City Hospital. A 10-bedded intensive care ward requires up 80 clinical staff, in addition to support services, to safely care for patients. This is a huge draw on our staffing resource who are grappling with pressures in their own areas of work. While we have a plan as to how to free colleagues to work in Belfast City Hospital, regrettably it means we have to postpone elective procedures in some areas this week.

This will give us the opportunity to upskill staff to support the anticipated rise in patients being admitted with Covid-19 both to hospital, and to an expanded ICU in Belfast City Hospital.

The Mater Hospital will continue to treat Covid-19 patients who do not require ICU level care in its role as Covid-19 Belfast Hospital.

Mr Chris Hagan, Medical Director said “This decision was extremely difficult and one that we did not want to have to make. We have, however, seen a significant rise in admissions related to Covid-19 in recent days and feel it is now necessary to move to this stage in our surge plan to ensure we can continue to deliver safe levels of care”.

He added “To patients who have had procedures cancelled this week I apologise that we are unable to provide the treatment you were expecting and it was not a decision we took lightly . We will do everything in our power to reschedule cancelled surgery over the coming weeks.”