Fatalities at Craigavon hospital are equal to a fatal minibus crash on some days, he says
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) area is the “epicentre” of Northern Ireland’s battle with Covid-19, according to a health chief.
Addressing January’s full council meeting, Southern Health Trust chief executive Shane Devlin compared the borough’s Covid death rate to a daily minibus or car crash in which everyone died.
Yesterday, official figures showed that 12,648 people had tested positive in the borough, an increase of 114 on the previous day — the biggest overnight increase in Northern Ireland.
In the week before Monday, there had been 924 positive cases — far ahead of every other council area — with over 600 of those aged 20 to 59. And 780 Trust staff were absent on Monday as a result of Covid-19.
“ABC is the epicentre of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland at the moment,” said Mr Devlin. “It is very clear that we are — our incidence rate is around 500 per 100,000.
“At the beginning of the pandemic the World Health Organisation said anything greater than 50 per 100,000 is out of control.
“The situation in Northern Ireland is completely out of control but we in ABC are far worse than any other council area.”
He attempted to hammer home the message by comparing the current death rate within the borough as a result of Covid-19 to that of a fatal car crash.
“If in 2021 so far, this borough had a car crash every morning that claimed the lives of the four people in the vehicle and that was happening seven days a week, what would your reaction be?” asked Mr Devlin.
“That is exactly what is happening in Craigavon Area Hospital at the moment and some days, it is more like a people carrier or minibus has crashed, killing all inside. The only difference is, it is not a car crash that is killing these people, its a virus — a virus that we can all play part in reducing the spread of.”
Mr Devlin told members that during the first surge, the Southern Trust had a peak of 63 positive Covid-19 patients, it had a peak of 129 in the second surge and in this, the third surge, it has so far had a peak of 297 Covid-19 positive patients.
“What this means is that the Southern Trust is dealing with 40% of all Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Devlin.
“As a consequence, the Belfast Trust and the South Eastern Trust, which are not dealing with the same volume of Covid positive patients as we are, are having to take some of our patients. Put bluntly, this has resulted in 79 ambulances bypassing Craigavon in the last week.
“We know people transfer the virus and it is highly contagious, we are in a bad place at the moment. The levels of the virus is high in the community and high in our hospitals.”
Mr Devlin told councillors that “we are so out of kilter with the rest of Northern Ireland and that is something we have to reflect on”.
He also revealed the need to double ICU capacity has led to the closure of theatres.
“That isn’t as simple as doubling the number of beds, it also means the ICU needs more staff,” he said. “I have needed to move 170 staff which has resulted in theatre closures.
“As a result of having to look after Covid-19 patients, I am in a position where I can’t do every operation.
“Last week, I ran 15 operations because the harm to the patients would have been irreversible. That was 15 operations to keep these people alive.
“On a normal week we would be doing more than 100 operations.”