Winter pressures, viruses, and industrial action puts strain on local hospitals as ‘Internal Critical Incident’ declared
An “internal critical incident” has been declared at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board due to the “prolonged and significant demand” being placed on the region’s hospitals.
As a result all but the most urgent procedures in north Wales’ hospitals have been postponed, Gill Harris, Interim Chief Executive, has confirmed.
It comes as winter pressures combined with an increase in winter viruses and Strep A concerns – along with scheduled industrial action from nurses and ambulance staff – has led to unprecedented demand.
The rise in viruses and injuries caused by the recent cold weather has mean that emergency departments have come under significant pressure.
Gill Harris said: “The Royal College of Nursing industrial action that is due to take place again tomorrow and the Wales Ambulance Service action on Wednesday will limit our ability to respond even further.
“A lack of available beds in our hospitals is currently leading to unprecedented ambulance delays across the Health Board and we are working closely with Local Authority colleagues to support medically fit patients to be discharged from hospital.
“Similar pressures are being experienced in other Health Boards and English Trusts.
“This morning, we have declared an internal critical incident, which means we are struggling to cope with the prolonged, significant demand on the health system in North Wales. As a result, we have postponed all but the most urgent procedures in our hospitals.
“We regret that this will impact on a number of patients who were due to receive planned care over the next few days and sincerely apologise to all those affected, who will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
“This is an exceptionally challenging time for colleagues across our health services and we are hugely grateful for the continued efforts being made in such difficult circumstances.”
Tomorrow (Tuesday 20 December) members of the Royal College of Nursing will stage a second day of industrial action amid ongoing calls for a fair pay deal and improved working conditions.
The union is calling on government ministers to meet and negotiate with representatives but so far they have been met with silence.
Gill Harris said: “Discussions with unions are ongoing to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified staff available for areas where the failure to provide services would result in a direct danger to life.
“Staff working in these services will be able to strike only if there is sufficient cover available to ensure patient safety.
“As last week, we will contact patients directly if any services they are due to access on days of industrial action are affected.”
She added: “We are urging members of the public who need help to contact 111 in the first instance to be advised about the most appropriate service, which might be self-care at home, a visit to the pharmacy, a GP appointment, a Minor Injuries Unit or, in life threatening circumstances, the hospital Emergency Department.
“As always, our Emergency Departments will remain open and will see patients in order of clinical priority.
“We regret that we anticipate that those who do attend will face extremely long waits to be seen while staff on duty do all they can to keep patients safe.”
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