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Spotlight on pressures at Craigavon Hospital as chief medical officer ‘extremely concerned’

Craigavon Area Hospital

Pressures leaning on staff at Craigavon Area Hospital are quite simply “unsustainable”, a BBC Spotlight programme revealed on Tuesday night.

Even without the cameras, the issues at both the Southern Trust’s major hospital sites in Craigavon and Newry, have been laid bare for all to see on countless occasions.

Emergency departments are full, wards are packed to the rafters – even the corridors and receptions have become makeshift bedsits for the infirm.

There is simply no room at the inn.

One ambulance worker, who faces hours-long waits to discharge a patient from an ambulance on an almost daily basis, told the programme it was the worst winter he could remember – and we haven’t even had Christmas yet.

The Permanent Secretary for Health, Peter May said there are a “significant amount of savings to make” in order to live within the budget allocated, stressing there “isn’t a pot of money” and certainly no money to deal with the emergency pressures facing hospitals like Craigavon.

The Southern Trust’s Chief Executive, Maria O’Kane, believes that stance “puts all of us in health in a really difficult position because effectively what we’re being asked to do is more for the same and potentially less”.

“We are aware there is not enough to balance the books and that is a real worry for all of us,” she added.

NI’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride, has warned of the potential for health care to be further destabilised by an increase in flu cases and a resurgence in Covid-19 infections.

“I am extremely concerned. The health service is extremely fragile and an extraordinary effort by staff has been required for many months up to now,” he said.

“We will all need to play our part in supporting our staff get through the coming weeks. We, the public, need to get our flu and Covid-19 vaccines, to protect ourselves, others and the health service from potential surges from these viruses.

“If you need urgent help then our health service is here for you, but we do need to use it wisely; and I ask everyone to work with hospital teams to support the discharge of your relatives when their medical care is complete.

“I cannot recall a time when concerns across the health and social care system were at this level. This winter will be about providing the best care we can, minimising harm and supporting staff while yet again they take the strain.

“We also need sustained action for the longer-term including recurrent, significant investment and greater reconfiguration of services. Patients and staff will keep paying the price if this does not happen.”

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