Thirty-five per cent more patients attended casualty compared to last November with an average of 100 patients attending daily, resulting in more patients having to wait more than 12 hours for treatment, the board heard.
Audrey Harris, interim director of medicine and emergency medicine, told a Trust board meeting on Thursday of last week that emergency department teams are “under extreme pressure” with hospital beds “at a premium”.
She stressed that patients are treated according to clinical need rather than waiting time.
She also said that relatives cannot accompany family members for treatment due to crowding which she acknowledged can be “really challenging”.
She went on to say that from teatime, numbers in the department can really “start to ramp up” with between 100 and 110 patients through ED doors at Antrim Hospital and Causeway Hospital in Coleraine becoming “very pressured much quicker” as it has less space.
Trust chairman Bob McCann asked about abuse and violence towards staff.
She replied: “There is an increase in violence and aggression across the sites, usually very challenging behaviour. We see some patients under the influence of alcohol and drugs and would frequently have PSNI officers sitting with patients.
“Staff are concerned about the pressure on them and concern about challenging behaviour and going into the back of ambulances. We have to deal with live issues as they come up.”
She reported that security has been increased.
“Patients are trying to work with us in the majority of cases,” she stated.
She also noted issues around patients not wanting to leave.
She went on to say that staff must also remain vigilant for respiratory symptoms and have to manage exposure to anyone who may have been sitting beside affected patients.
“It is challenging but we have to be vigilant.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
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