‘I thought this was the end’: The relentless battle for survival inside the Covid ward in one of Wales’ worst hit areas

  • Video report by ITV Wales reporter Ian Lang and camera operator Lynsey Green

Staff and patients at a north Wales hospital in one of the areas worst hit by Covid have told ITV News of the relentless physical and mental exhaustion of facing the virus day-on-day.

While the vaccine rollout is picking up pace and case numbers are starting to decrease, hospitals are still under immense pressure.

The threat of the new UK-variant, which is up to 70% more transmissible and could be more deadly, is very real.

Healthcare staff at Wrexham Maelor Hospital have been faced with a particular challenge, treating patients in the area of Wales with the highest virus positivity rate.

One ward nurse said they have "horrendous" days and a consultant said staff are "really struggling".

  • "Everyone is working themselves to the bone"

Ward sister Kathryn Ellis said everyone across every aspect of hospital life is "exhausted".

The pressure the Welsh NHS is under means staff are "working themselves to the bone" to save the lives of patients.

While the strain of seeing Covid patient after Covid patient is tough, Ms Ellis said they do have some good days.

"We have patients recovering and going home, which is lovely to see ," she said.

But when ITV News spoke to Ms Ellis, sadly it had not been a good day.

The trauma of everyday life at the hospital is easy to see as Ms Ellis broke down when asked if there is one moment that has hit her more than any other.

Ms Ellis spoke of her frustration when hearing false claims that the situation in hospitals is not as serious as it is presented to be.

She said: "That’s something that I do find quite annoying when I hear out there that they don’t believe what’s going on and they think it’s not real. This is real."

Staff are having to work overtime just to ensure there is the "minimum" amount of safe care provision available. Credit: ITV Wales
  • "They are really struggling"

Having the nurses available to treat the sheer volume of patients is also an issue. Consultant Liz Brohan said every hospital in the country is short on nurses but the ones they do have are under "extreme pressure".

Ms Brohan said: "We would run with a higher staffing ratio than we're currently running.

"We're running with the minimum we would regard to be safe at the moment.

"That puts a lot of pressure on staff. A lot of staff are doing extras, they're doing over-time and they are really struggling."

Covid cases numbers are still high in Wrexham, which at time of writing has 438.4 cases per 100,000 of the population. Credit: ITV Wales
  • "I thought I was going to die"

Patients on the wards at Wrexham Maelor also witness first-hand the reality of this deadly virus.

Ian Kelcroft is currently at the hospital and recovering from Covid. He has seen two others on his ward die from the same disease and thought at one point that he would too.

"It’s like when you’re gasping for breath and there’s nothing restricting you apart from that disease then you think it’s going to be the end," he said.

"It’s just been hard on me emotionally. I’ve had some other conditions in the past which hasn’t helped this one - and for anybody out there that does not think this exists, then you’re very wrong."

Nurses and doctors say they will "just keep going" to ensure as many lives are saved as possible but people are still dying everyday and the battle is far from over.