Hospitals' intensive care units 'full' amid soaring Covid patients
- Credit: Archant
Soaring numbers of coronavirus patients mean intensive care units at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are both "full", their chief executive has warned - with further pressure on emergency beds expected as infections rise.
However Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - which runs the two hospitals - pledged that "care is safe" as staff are reorganised to ensure patients are looked after.
Mr Hulme warned staff at the sites are "managing hour by hour" as they treat 110 coronavirus patients in Colchester and 150 in Ipswich, alongside patients with other conditions.
On top of that, Mr Hulme said: "Staff sickness is at a higher level than we would normally have at this time of year," as Covid cases in communities rise to a "number which we really haven't seen before".
He predicted there would be a "steady increase in pressure on ICU beds I suspect for the next few weeks" - but said: "Staff have really stepped up to that challenge."
He also reassured patients that doctors and nurses had better stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) than at the last peak.
Mr Hulme the hospitals were "looking at moving other staff, other equipment and beds into higher acuity beds".
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That has meant some operations have had to be cancelled "to free up those staff, some beds, theatre capacity and free up anaesthetists to work in intensive care rather than in theatres".
Mr Hulme added: "It changes almost by the hour and the important thing is the staff have been incredibly flexible in terms of where they work and how they work.
"Care is safe," added Mr Hulme.
"But it is tricky. It does mean that we are managing hour by hour in terms of making sure we can safely staff as many areas as we possibly can given the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
"It's still safe to come to the hospital if you need to come. But if you don't need to come if you have got a condition that isn't urgent then please use primary care."
West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, said it was also seeing high number of patients.
The latest government data showed that, as of December 23, there were 94 Covid-19 patients at West Suffolk Hospital - with five people on ventilators.
A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: "We are still seeing an increase in Covid-19 patients and we are treating more people with the virus than in the spring.
"Our staff are working incredibly hard to support our patients and the local community, but we need the public's help. We would urge everyone to follow the Tier 4 restrictions in place across the region to help stop the spread of the virus.
"If you need medical assistance please use the NHS 111 service via telephone or online in the first instance, and in a medical emergency use 999 or attend our emergency department."