Army should be brought in to help 'massive wave' of Covid in Welsh hospitals, says top doctor

Wales' hospitals may need the support of the army to help deal with the current Covid situation and a staffing crisis, a top doctor has told ITV News.

Dr Tim Rogerson, who is an emergency consultant at the Grange Hospital in Cwmbran, said staff on the front line are currently "at their limit" and extra support is needed to get through, what he describes as a "massive wave".

He told ITV Wales' health correspondent James Crichton-Smith him and his colleagues have "never felt pressure like this" as cases of coronavirus continue to rise, with rates doubling in the last eleven days in Wales.

His comments come as Aneurin Bevan University Health Board urged people to avoid The Grange Hospital, and only attend if someone has a "life-threatening illness or serious injury".

Dr Rogerson works at Wales' newest hospital Grange Hospital Credit: Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

"It's not just because patients have Covid, it is the numbers the tidal wave of patients heading towards the department on foot, and also on ambulances.

"Every winter we say things are tough but we've got emergency medicine consultants saying they've never seen anything like this."

  • "What we are facing is unachievable"

Dr Rogerson said staffing in the hospitals is an issue as the First Minister told a press conference there are 1,500 fewer NHS staff on the front line due to sickness and self-isolation. Dr Rogerson also said they are seeing "normal numbers" of emergency patients on top of Covid cases, "so the two combined are making what we're facing unachievable".

He said the lockdown helped the situation in March, and with Mark Drakeford ruling out any sign of a pre-Christmas lockdown, Dr Rogerson said it makes him worried for what is to come.

"I know its difficult.. and unpopular... but were at a stage when we're looking at being able to deliver the right care to the patients.

"We want to see our relatives in January and unless we lock it down, there are going to be empty chairs at dining tables".

"The two weeks after Christmas are always bad, but the thought of facing it with a wave of Covid, I don't know what we're going to do. The NHS always gets through but it feels like a tight rope."

"Unless something changes dramatically, the hospitals are already full, the ambulance service is under pressure as it is. I think if this continues, there needs to be a big red button that unleashes more capacity, but we need staffing.

"We are used to working hard and we're used to seeing patients and pressure, but when staff are starting to get to the edge and saying 'how are we going to cope?' some staff will break. They are the staff we're relying on to get us through, so we have to see a change within our organisations but also from Welsh government and national government to get a new focus on this so we can prevent this massive wave thats coming."

Hospitals in Wales have warned they are at breaking point. Credit: PA Images

On Friday, the Director of Public Health for Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board told ITV News that Wales is facing the prospect of its health service "keeling over".

Dr Kelechi Nnoaham said: "The occupancy of Covid beds, general beds, ITU, they are almost at the limits.

"If nothing happens we're going to be in a position, either before or around Christmas, where if you need other services other than Covid services, you simply won't be able to get them."

He pointed out that rising case numbers in his area could be the result of various factors.

"It's perhaps a mixture of many reasons - the way we interact, some people have pointed towards the housing stock in the Welsh valleys, some people have talked about the nature of our social interactions, some people have talked about the impact of deprivation.

"I think it is pretty much impossible to put your finger on one factor."