| 11.6°C Belfast

Editor's Viewpoint

Hospital avoidance a cause for concern

Editor's Viewpoint


Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Health Minister Robin Swann

Understandably, the focus of attention in recent months has been on the number of people who have died in Northern Ireland from coronavirus infection, but the official figures only give part of the picture.

They relate in the main to deaths in hospitals, although there has been a recent effort to collate the numbers who have passed away in care homes.

Determining the number of deaths in the community at large is an even more painstaking task which will take considerable time to complete.

However, as our story today reveals, the situation is even more complex because the pandemic could also be responsible for a significant number of other deaths, even though those who passed away were never infected.

There are serious concerns that many people are not seeking medical help for symptoms which would normally send them to their GP or hospital emergency department.

Official statistics show that in a three-week period this month, 178 more deaths were recorded than would be expected at this time of year, based on previous records.

Those deaths were not recorded as having a coronavirus influence, suggesting that they could have been caused by people not seeking medical attention for other conditions such as cardiac problems.

It has been noted that attendances at emergency departments have fallen sharply in recent times, with the lockdown and the fear of contracting coronavirus in hospital believed to be the main reasons.

It was only six months ago that record numbers of people were attending A&E departments and trolley waits of up to 12 hours for admission to wards were not uncommon.

Such is the concern of medical specialists not involved in treating coronavirus-infected patients, and even the Health Minister Robin Swann, that they have appealed to the public to continue to come to A&E departments if they have worrying symptoms, stressing that the NHS remains open for business.

That, of course, is the sensible approach, and it would be ironic if taking precautions to avoid coronavirus infection should instead lead to an unrelated fatal condition going untreated.

The impact of the pandemic on every facet of our lives is also having an indirect influence on why some people die.

Just how significant may not be known for a considerable period of time.

Belfast Telegraph