People need to start heeding advice to avoid repeat of Craigavon Hospital incident, say Alliance representatives

COVID-19 Eóin Tennyson Health Paula Bradshaw

People must start heeding the advice on restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, otherwise hospitals will continue to have to refuse patients, Alliance representatives have said.

Party Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA and Upper Bann Councillor Eóin Tennyson were speaking after the Southern Health Trust diverted ambulances from Craigavon Area Hospital on Sunday, except in cases of immediate life-threatening situations, due to extreme pressures on wards.

“Alliance has consistently warned, inside and outside the Executive, reopening crowded indoor venues without mitigations such as compulsory certification of full vaccination or a recent negative test was a ludicrous stance to take after warnings hospitals face their busiest winter ever,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“The problem this winter arises not just from COVID, but also from other respiratory viruses. We need to speed up the roll-out of the flu jab also and we cannot have high-risk, crowded, indoor venues operating without mitigations such as ventilation systems. These mitigations must be compulsory.

“I would repeat my call to the Health Minister to make a statement in response to what we now know was the clear advice from the Chief Scientific Adviser that high-risk indoor venues should not be reopened without mitigations when they were, and also about plans for the immediate further roll-out of booster jabs and second doses for 16 and 17-year-olds. The ultimate question is how the Minister intends to get pro-active and make proposals to mitigate against the endless cycle of increasing restrictions we are already seeing elsewhere in Europe.”

“The pressures facing the Southern Trust are extremely concerning,” added Councillor Tennyson.

“The decision to divert ambulances to other hospitals in the region will not have been taken lightly, but will have been necessary to protect patient safety.

“We have not even entered the traditional period of winter pressure. My thoughts are with the staff who are working in extremely difficult conditions. If we are to avoid other hospitals having to take similar action, or the return of restrictions over the Christmas period, we must see decisive leadership from the Health Minister now.”