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Nursing shortage keeps Northern Ireland hospital beds closed

A shortage of nurses has left a number of hospital beds in Londonderry's Altnagelvin Hospital out of use, even after a vomiting bug that broke out last week was cleared up.

A total of 25 beds were closed and routine operations cancelled after an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the hospital's elective orthopaedic ward.

In a statement, the Western Health Trust's medical director Dr Dermot Hughes confirmed that the situation in the ward had been brought under control, and that it had reopened to admissions, but that a number of other beds remained closed due to nursing shortages - meaning that some inpatient care had been delayed.

In total, 302 routine operations were scheduled to take place between 26 July and 31 July, with 260 of these going ahead and 42 postponed.

Speaking to the BBC, one woman who had been impacted by the delays said that she wanted clarity on the situation and that she was "disappointed" the surgery on her foot would not be going ahead.

Patients who have had surgery postponed will be offered a time for their procedure at a later date, hospital officials have said.

Addressing the issue of staff shortages, Dr Hughes said: "We are sourcing additional staff from bank lists and nursing agencies. The Western Trust also has an enhanced recruitment process to attract registered nurses to our hospitals and recently recruited over 100 nurses due to qualify in September 2017.

"They have been offered permanent employment. We are also participating in Northern Ireland wide international nurse recruitment campaign."

All urgent cases, procedures at the hospital's Day Case Unit and all cancer surgery continue to take place.

Dr Hughes added that the situation at the hospital is being reviewed on a daily basis with the view to best utilising its current bed capacity.

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