Covid-19: Appeal for off-duty staff to help in under-pressure Belfast hospitals

‘Extreme pressure’ in Royal Victoria and Mater hospital due to emergency admissions

Two health trusts in Northern Ireland have made emergency appeals for off-duty staff to come into work as hospitals come under increased pressure.

The Belfast and South Eastern trusts issued the callouts on Sunday.

The Belfast Trust said there was “extreme pressure” in the Royal Victoria and Mater hospitals due to emergency admissions and the increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients.

“We are asking for help from our Trust nursing staff to work tonight and overnight and ask those available to work tonight,” the trust said.


The South Eastern Trust tweeted: “We are currently experiencing pressures in the system and would appeal for any trust staff who can help out this evening to contact their department manager.”

Referencing a social media post by the Belfast Trust, Northern Ireland's Health Minister Robin Swann tweeted: "This is not an ask that a Trust makes easily of its staff, but unfortunately it is necessary as we continue to maintain the services that are expected.

“My enduring thanks to all our health staff who do so much for all of us.”

The trust appeals came on the day when Northern Ireland passed the one million landmark for people in the region who are fully vaccinated.

About 70 per cent of the adult population have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The milestone came eight months after the first jab was administered in Northern Ireland.

By Sunday, 2,204,177 vaccine doses had been administered in the region.

A further 1,264 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Two further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for the virus were also notified.

‘Outstanding success’

Mr Swann described the vaccination programme as an “outstanding success” but said there was a need to increase vaccine take-up rates in the coming days.

The Delta variant is driving up daily cases of the virus, which has led to the increase in the number of people admitted to hospital.

“If we can make a concerted effort to increase vaccine uptake in the next week or so, this can help make a decisive difference in terms of preventing serious illness and hospitalisations,” Mr Swann said.

“Our regional vaccination centres are closing for first doses in less than seven days so please if you’re not vaccinated, make it your priority to get a first dose as soon as you can.”

North’s chief medical officer Professor Michael McBride said it was a life-saving vaccination programme.

“There are many people alive here today because they have been vaccinated,” he added.

“This virus is not going away and increasingly the only way we all get back to doing more of the things we want to do is for more of the population to be vaccinated.”

Patricia Donnelly, head of the Covid vaccination programme in Northern Ireland, said: "We are very pleased with the success of the programme but we do not take these milestone for granted.

“There has been a lot of hard work and determination behind this programme and we know we are not at the finish line yet.

“Uptake in the older age groups has been exceptional but only 56 per cent of our under-30s have come forward to date.

“We do not want this age group to miss out.

“Time is running out in vaccination centres for first doses so if you have not already come forward, then please do so soon.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson expressed concern about the increasing rates of hospital admission.

“Across the UK there has been an increase in the numbers of younger people contracting Covid-19,” he said

“Whilst we have hit another significant milestone locally with over one million people now fully vaccinated, we lag behind other areas of the UK in terms of our younger population.

"In Scotland around 30 per cent of under-30s are not yet vaccinated whilst in England that figure rises to 34 per cent.

“In Northern Ireland, however, that figure rises to just over 42 per cent.

"Vaccination is not just about protecting yourself but is also vital to protect our NHS and to safeguard the relaxations we have been able to introduce."

Sinn Féin's Colm Gildernew called on Mr Swann to ensure safe staffing levels in hospitals.

“The Health Minister must act to ensure safe staffing levels in all hospitals and that all staff are supported,” he said.

“It is also important that everyone continues to be vigilant and follow the public health guidelines to help ease pressures on our health service and its workers.” – PA