‘Antiquated estate’ hindering fight against COVID-19

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust’s “antiquated estate” is hindering its fight against COVID-19, the Trust’s Board has been told.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 11:36 am

Speaking during a virtual board meeting the Chief Executive of the Trust, Shane Devlin, said it is difficult to ensure “enough space for people to physically distance” within Trust premises.

These words were supported by the Trust’s Director of Older People and Primary Care, Melanie McClements, who said the lack of side rooms with en-suites was a hinderance in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are working in antiquated buildings,” said Ms McClements. “I can’t magic up side rooms, we need to isolate patients but we don’t have side rooms.

Craigavon area hospital

“Under the capital plan we need investment for the population of the Southern Trust.”

The Chair of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust Board, Roberta Brownlee said she had hoped to deliver a new hospital for the Southern Trust during her time in the role.

“For as long as I have been in this position I have lobbied for estate improvements and I had hoped during my tenure we would be cutting the first sod,” said Ms Brownlee.

“We need huge capital investment. Side rooms are the biggest prevention of outbreaks but we don’t have the money to do the huge job required.

“If people come through the emergency department that may be infected the best practice would be to put them in a side room with an en-suite but we simply don’t have that.”

Dr Sara Hedderwick, an infectious disease consultant in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, also talked up the ability of side rooms to prevent an outbreak of infectious diseases.

“Give me a new hospital of all side rooms and I would guarantee we would never have an outbreak,” said Dr Hedderwick.

“By the time we know we have a case, people have been put in a bay beside people for two days. Bays are the place outbreaks happen.

“We are trying to mitigate but any mitigation will only do so much. Being on a bay is like being in a household with someone infected, so yes, more side rooms please.”

One of the Trust’s non-executive directors, Hillary McCartan said she would be in support of new buildings in the Southern Trust but accepted that the money for such work is unlikely to arrive.

“I couldn’t agree more, we do need a new estate but the problem is the difficulty of getting any capital budget to invest in our real estate,” said Ms McCartan.

The Department of Health has been asked for comment.