The number of people attending hospital emergency departments in Northern Ireland at the height of the pandemic was down by almost a third on the same period last year.
According to Department of Health figures, there were 49,232 attendances at emergency departments during March.
This was 31% less than during March 2019 (71,316).
Health Minister Robin Swann said the number attending emergency departments has since started to “climb significantly” in recent weeks.
Commenting on the latest emergency care waiting time statistics, the Health Minister has said that rebuilding health and social care services will be a âmassive and long-term undertakingâ.— Department of Health (@healthdpt) June 4, 2020
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He said while this increase was “clearly welcome”, it also points to “serious challenges”.
“Prior to the pandemic, there was clear evidence that our urgent and emergency care services were under increasing pressure with growing numbers of people experiencing long waits to be seen in crowded emergency departments,” he said.
“Given the continuing need for social distancing, we cannot allow this to happen again.”
Mr Swann said he will next week publish a detailed blueprint for the rebuilding of the health and social care system.
“This is a massive and long-term undertaking, given the limitations on capacity due to the ongoing Covid-19 threat,” he said.
“We have heard a lot about how social distancing will severely affect the capacity of shops, restaurants and other businesses for months and possibly years.
“This will be even more of a challenge for emergency departments and other health and social care services. There will be no return to business as usual.”