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Health department doesn't know how many people have been treated for coronavirus in Northern Ireland

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The Mater Hospital in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Mater Hospital in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

The Mater Hospital in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Department of Health has said it doesn't know how many people have received hospital treatment for coronavirus, it can be revealed.

It has also emerged that the Department of Health does not hold statistics relating to the number of people who have been discharged from hospital after testing positive with Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency has said health officials are not recording the number of people in the community in Northern Ireland who are being treated for coronavirus.

This is despite the fact that coronavirus is a notifiable disease, meaning that doctors must alert the Director of Public Health if they become aware, or have reasonable grounds for suspecting, that a patient has the coronavirus disease. A letter was sent from the chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, on February 28 to remind clinicians of their responsibilities in relation to notifiable diseases after Covid-19 was classified as such.

Paula Bradshaw, the Alliance Party's health spokeswoman, said: "We are in the midst of the most challenging and pressurised health crisis in living memory.

"However, it is imperative that this information is collected to inform how we can restrict the spread and safely emerge from lockdown.

"In the longer term, at the far side, an inquiry or evaluation of the response of the health department will no doubt be carried out, for future contingency planning purposes, and this information should be key to this," she said.

The failure of the Department of Health to gather key statistics relating to the pandemic is the latest development that has raised concerns over the official response to coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

Officials are in the process of putting together contingency plans to ensure there are adequate staff, hospital beds and equipment available to cope with the anticipated surge in Covid-19 cases.

It is expected to hit Northern Ireland by Monday and last for two to three weeks.

During the first phase of surge planning, Northern Ireland's critical care capacity has increased from 88 adult ICU beds to 132 ICU beds across nine sites.

Moving into the second phase of the surge plan, the Department of Health is aiming to provide 250 ventilated beds between Belfast City and Altnagelvin hospitals.

Belfast Telegraph