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Hospitals recover as Ulster 'flu subsides

ULSTER'S hospitals today breathed a huge sigh of relief as the 'flu outbreak begins to slow down.

ULSTER'S hospitals today breathed a huge sigh of relief as the 'flu outbreak begins to slow down.

Nursing staff hit by the bug have now returned to work and the province's top hospitals are now ''coping well" with the situation.

However, the news comes as experts in England today predicted that the outbreak may not peak for another two weeks.

A spokesman for the Public Health and Laboratory Service, warned: ''We do expect to see another rise in the figures this week and perhaps for the next couple of weeks before the outbreak peaks."

However, the crisis which has wreaked havoc throughout Ulster is now starting to tail off.

Hospitals are still packed with patients being treated for the 'flu and other respiratory viruses, but the number of people being struck down with the bug has stabilised.

Extra beds have been open throughout the province to cope with the beds crisis and a £3.3m cash injection was announced by the new Health Minister Bairbre de Brun to deal with the problem.

Most hospitals have still postponed all non-urgent procedures, but are reporting a stable stream of admissions and referrals.

A spokeswoman for the City Hospital, one of the worst hit by a shortage of staff and intensive care beds, said the 'flu outbreak was beginning to ''level out".

Ten extra beds at two of the trusts other hospitals in the Ards and Bangor area, were opened to cope with the spill of admissions from the City.

And nearly all of the 240 nurses struck down by the bug, have returned to work.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Victoria Hospital said today chiefs are monitoring the situation "on a daily basis".

As all the hospitals in the Belfast area operate on a rota system on A&E admission, the spokeswoman said pressure was eased last night because the City dealt with emergencies.

She said today:"We are managing at the moment, but it depends on what the day brings."

A spokesman for the City said a small number of people were admitted to the hospital last night with chest infections.

The 'flu outbreak in Londonderry has also begun to ease.

Health chiefs in at Altnagelvin Hospital were due to meet later today to access the situation.

A spokeswoman for Antrim Area Hospital said the situation remained ''difficult".

Last night two people were forced to wait on trolleys for a bed.

A spokeswoman said:"Things are easing a bit but remain difficult with 70 medical patients being treated in non-medical wards."