'Mayhem' at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital emergency department after surge of patients
A heavy influx of patients led to "pure mayhem" at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital emergency department, according to staff.
Resources were again stretched to the limit as nurses and doctors struggled to cope with scores of sick and injured people who flooded into the casualty unit over the weekend.
The crisis came just weeks after a Major Incident was declared at the hospital during a similar episode last month.
At the time Health Minister Edwin Poots described that as a "one-off" caused by an "unreasonable spike" in admissions and defended the provision of emergency care.
In the latest incident staff and health union officials spoke of the "nightmare" that faced patients, staff and management as the number of patients grew.
At one point on Sunday night there were 96 patients on trolleys awaiting admission – more than double the amount that sparked off the Major Incident declaration on January 8.
Last night a Belfast Trust spokeswoman downplayed the seriousness of the situation, saying that it had "no plans to call a Major Incident" instigating escalation measures instead.
The introduction of another 50 beds by management and the deployment of extra staff meant that the trust's escalation measures worked in the interim.
Ray Rafferty, joint Unison branch secretary at the RVH site, said that the hospital treated 254 patients on Sunday and at one point there were more than 105 patients on trolleys.
"What happened at the Royal over Sunday and Monday can just be described as pure mayhem," said Mr Rafferty.
A nurse who was working at the RVH said she was "burnt out" and was left angered after the health minister's comments on the major incident at the RVH last month which prompted a report by the Northern Ireland Assembly's Health committee.
One patient described her wait at the RVH as "a cattle market".
"The place is in chaos. The cubicles are bunged, dozens of trolleys and that is only one side of the corridor."
However, she praised the nurses. "They are angels in disguise," she said.