'Difficult days are ahead' Health boss warns of extreme Covid pressures facing Welsh hospitals

The next few days and weeks are going to be "very difficult" for hospitals in Wales, and the staff working in them, a health boss has warned.

Dr Nick Lyons, Medical Director at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board whose hospitals span Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf - some the worst Covid-affected areas in Wales - said he has "never seen it so difficult" as staff battle with a huge number of patients needing treatment for coronavirus.

"Our hospitals have a huge number of patients with Covid or recovering from it. We have well over 600 as well as intensive care who have tripled their capacity - and you can imagine the huge pressures this puts on our staff.

"We will always deliver safe care but as we look forward the next few days and weeks, it does look very difficult."

  • Critical care in a "precarious position"

It comes as Wales' health minister described the situation across Wales as "exceptionally challenging" and warned critical care is currently operating at 141% of its normal capacity in Wales due to a surge in transmission of Covid-19.

Mr Gething said there were "very high levels of pressure" due to Covid-19, winter pressure

He described how the pandemic had "taken its toll" on frontline workers - resulting in high levels of staff sickness.

There are currently more than 2,000 fewer staff available to work than there were in September, with increasing numbers of the NHS workforce returning to shielding.

"Many aspects of our health and care system are stretched to the limit as they seek to provide essential care and treatment," Mr Gething said.

"Routine activity in hospitals has had to be limited and domiciliary care and care homes are experiencing similar constraints on the services they can provide."

"We continue to see patients in critical care for long periods of time and sadly many deaths."

CTMU health board said more than half of its hospital patients are being treated for Covid-19
  • Patient numbers 'exceeding' predictions

There are now more than 2,600 coronavirus-related patients in hospital - exceeding the 2,500 patients the NHS had anticipated in Wales.

More than 1,600 of these are confirmed to have Covid-19, which is a record number for the country, while more than 800 patients are in hospital recovering from the virus.

Mr Gething said primary care and ambulance services were dealing with "exceptional levels of demand", with the 111 service seeing more than 4,000 calls on Monday - the highest seen in a single day.

Figures show the latest seven-day average figure is almost 120 hospital admissions per day, twice the level seen in September.

In hospitals run by Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, more than 51% of patients have Covid-19.

This figure is 48% for patients in hospitals run by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

From January, more than 90 military personnel will be deployed to Wales to support the country's health boards in establishing and operating vaccination centres.

As part of this, trained defence medics will be administering the vaccine for the first time since it was rolled out.

Figures released on Thursday show there have been a further 1,831 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 148,537.

Another 65 deaths were reported, bringing the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,494.

  • "Light at the end of the tunnel"

Dr Lyons did say that the vaccination announcements do give "some promise for the future".

Dr Lyons said the vaccination announcements provided "some promise" Credit: PA

"We're going to see over this weekend increased numbers of patients admitted and I do worry about pressures on our staff.

"The vaccine does give us some promise - it does give us light at the end of the tunnel - but the tunnel is quite long and we're going to see some difficult days ahead."