Northern Ireland hospitals under so much Covid pressure some patients wait two days in A&E for beds

Watch UTV News correspondent Deborah McAleese explain why hospitals are under so much pressure.

Northern Ireland's hospital trusts have issued a public warning about high levels of Covid transmission in the community.

Hospital bosses say the virus is continuing to exacerbate pressures.

Patients are now facing waits of up to 60 hours - more than two days - in emergency departments to be moved to a bed on a ward.

Those affected include the Royal Children's Hospital in Belfast, where 187 children attended for a range of illnesses on Tuesday – much higher than on an average day.

And on Monday night, Altnagelvin Hospital said that due to backlog, it had no room for new patients.

By Tuesday evening, the Northern Trust warned that both the Antrim and Causeway Hospital Emergency Departments were under extreme pressure and urged people to attend appropriately.

Hospital staff across Northern Ireland have told UTV News it's not just about Covid - as other factors contribute to the pressure.

But we are being told the virus is still exacerbating the situation, as life appears to return to normal with mass testing ending, and mask-wearing in decline.

According to the latest figures on Tuesday, hospital occupancy overall has increased from 105% to 108%.

That means that right now - ten of Northern Ireland's 12 hospitals are running over capacity.

There are 530 Covid patients in hospital beds, according to Tuesday's figures.

And across the Belfast Trust on the same day, there were 848 staff absences due to Covid-related illness.

“We’ve got over 100 staff off today due to Covid related illnesses,” Altnagelvin Hospital Associate Medical Director said.

“This means we struggle to open a lot of our beds in the ward areas and again it adds even more pressure onto the Emergency Department.

“We have so many patients waiting for beds we don’t actually have space to see them in the Emergency Department.

"This means that we’re actually very inefficient – it doesn’t matter if you’ve five doctors on shift or 10, as you can’t physically see the patients.”