A “potential major incident” was declared due to severe pressures in the Emergency Department at a Northern Ireland hospital.
The move was taken on Tuesday at Antrim Area Hospital after, at one point, 62 people needed to be admitted to beds that were not available in wards.
A spokesperson for the Northern Trust said the hospital had “never seen pressures just quite as intense as this”.
The spokesperson later said the potential major incident alert had been stood down, although pressures at the hospital remain high.
⚠️ URGENT⚠️— Northern Trust (@NHSCTrust) February 22, 2022
Antrim Hosp in particular is seeing unprecedented demand.
Staff are working extremely hard & pts are being seen in clinical priority.
You will experience a very long wait if your condition is not urgent.
We apologise to all our patients for the long waits. pic.twitter.com/IGj0C0T2zA
It is one step away from a full major incident, which would involve the hospital being unable to take any further patients and effectively shutting its doors.
The alert is called by the ED Consultant in charge on safety grounds and puts staff on high alert to avert an actual major incident being declared.
We’re not in a good place at all and we have never seen pressures just quite as intense as this
In a statement, a trust spokesperson said: “We’re not in a good place at all and we have never seen pressures just quite as intense as this.
“Unfortunately, those pressures are compounded by the fact that many of the patients waiting in the Emergency Department are very sick indeed.
“Senior staff and clinicians are in constant communication with each other to try and identify what, if anything, can be can done.
“They are also working with colleagues in the wider HSC, although pressures are also severe elsewhere across the region, meaning that normal balancing, or ‘smoothing’, of ambulance arrivals across the system is much more difficult.”
The spokesperson added: “Flow through the hospital is considerably impacted and discharge is more complicated because we are also continuing to care for significant numbers of Covid in-patients.
“Currently, Antrim Hospital has 26% of all of the region’s Covid in-patients and more Covid in-patients (101) than any other hospital in Northern Ireland
“In situations like this, many different actions – some seemingly minor – can collectively make the difference.
“We have also asked our GP colleagues in Primary Care, who are themselves under considerable pressure, for their help in trying to ensure that only those who absolutely need to attend ED do so.”
A Twitter message from the trust said: “Antrim Hosp in particular is seeing unprecedented demand.
“Staff are working extremely hard & pts are being seen in clinical priority.
“You will experience a very long wait if your condition is not urgent. We apologise to all our patients for the long waits.”
SDLP health spokesperson Colin McGrath said: “This news will cause considerable concern for patients and their families, but I know staff will be working tirelessly to ensure that every patient receives the best care possible.
“It’s deeply regrettable that staff have been placed in this position where they are dealing with unimaginable pressures.”