Life-saving surgery due to be carried out on a patient being cared for on a cardiac ward hit by a Covid-19 outbreak has been delayed until next year.
The man, understood to be in his 40s, was due to be transferred from Antrim Area Hospital to Blackrock Clinic in Dublin next week for triple bypass surgery after suffering a heart attack.
However, the operation has now been postponed after the outbreak was identified and the man was diagnosed with Covid-19.
He is one of two patients whose operations have been delayed as a result of the outbreak.
It emerged this week that 15 patients and five members of staff from Antrim Area Hospital's cardiac and coronary care unit have tested positive for Covid-19.
A spokeswoman from the Northern Trust said that a range of infection control measures have been put in place, including isolation and cohorting of affected patients in line with official guidance.
She continued: "With high levels of Covid-19 circulating in communities, along with sustained community transmission, outbreaks will inevitably happen and the trust must therefore continually manage beds as a result of cases that may or may not relate to these outbreaks.
"A dynamic risk assessment is carried out routinely as hospitals try to manage both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 pathways. This is something the trust has had to become accustomed to but it does add to the complexity of providing acute services during a pandemic and particularly during sustained surges."
The spokeswoman said the decision to delay treatment for two patients was a necessary measure.
She added: "The trust will work with partners to ensure any procedures which are delayed are rebooked as soon as possible and sincerely apologises to anyone personally affected."
Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew, chair of the Stormont health committee, said: "Any outbreak is extremely serious and has the potential to have a knock-on effect on planned surgeries and other procedures.
"It also underscores the need for all of us to continue to do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus in order to protect our health service and its patients and staff."
The outbreak has come to light as health bosses continue to battle to spread of coronavirus, while preparing for the latest range of restrictions to be eased.
With more than 400 people across Northern Ireland being diagnosed with Covid-19 each day, the NHS is bracing itself for an influx of seriously ill patients in January.
Earlier this year, the Southern Trust battled two serious Covid-19 outbreaks at its hospitals, with nine patients dying and more than 150 staff having to self-isolate.