Intensive care units 'at capacity', warns hospital boss

Nick Hulme is the chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals. Picture: ARCHANT

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust boss Nick Hulme - Credit: Archant

The intensive care units at both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are "at capacity", the NHS trust's chief executive has warned.

There are currently more than 320 people battling the virus at the hospitals, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust boss Nick Hulme said.

That figure is up 18% on the week ending December 23, when 277 people were being treated for the virus in both hospitals, according to Public Health Suffolk.

According to the latest government figures, which run up to December 30, 19 patients in intensive care required mechanical ventilation. The number is lower than the level reached during the first peak of the virus of 34 on April 18, however is on the rise.

Before Christmas, Ipswich Hospital staff made harrowing pleas for people to stick to government guidelines in a bid to curb the situation which is leaving them close to "breaking point".

Speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk, Mr Hulme said the current situation has been difficult for local healthcare workers.

He said: "It is really, really tough at the moment.

"I would implore people to please, please stick to the rules – stay inside, wear a mask, sanitise your hands and keep your space.

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"We are watching people die as a result of people not sticking to the rules. Whatever you can do, please do it for yourself, your family and those in your community.

"Protect yourself, protect your family, protect your community."

Mr Hulme added staffing levels are higher than usual for this time of year and that he believes staff to be more at risk of infection in the community, rather than in the hospital where they wear protective equipment.

He said: "It is an hour-by-hour juggling act in terms of moving staff around the hospital. Their flexibility is incredible as is their willingness to work in different areas and different teams.

"It is a constant pressure. So again, anything as we as a community can do in the amazing counties of Essex and Suffolk to protect people, will ultimately protect the NHS and therefore help provide good care to patients who need to be here."

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