Antrim gets boosted

A STEADY stream of local people have been filtering into the Antrim Forum, where a vaccine clinic has been set up.

One of the halls is providing boosters and first and second vaccinations for walk-in and booked residents.

The news comes as a top medic in the Northern Trust warned that omicron-related staff absence could seriously impact Northern Ireland’s health and social care system over the coming weeks.

Speaking on behalf of Medical Directors across the region, Dr Seamus O’Reilly, Medical Director, Northern Health and Social Care Trust said: “We know how infectious this particular variant is and we know that case numbers are already high.

“Alongside the public health threat, we are also extremely concerned about the number of health and social care staff who might not be available to work due to COVID-19 infection or self-isolation at the very time when we will need them most.

“This could be the factor that causes most pressure on all services over the coming weeks, not just in hospitals but also much-needed community services and support and administrative services.

“There is also the possibility that we will see increasing numbers of patients being admitted to hospitals as a result of Omicron.

“This would be on top of the significant pressures we have already seen on our health and social care system.

“It is vitally important that people only come to hospitals if their condition dictates that they need to be there. Emergency Departments are there to deal with genuine life-threatening emergencies for example chest pain, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, stroke or sudden confusion.

“In any situation where resources are likely to be as depleted as we anticipate, it is vital that we are able to prioritise those who are most in need of our attention and that they receive timely and appropriate treatment and care. So please use alternatives where possible.

“It is a situation where we must work together not only to make best use of all the resources that are available to us but also to utilise capacity wherever that happens to be.”

“Overall, we hope the public will understand that the health and social care system is unlikely to be able to maintain some services due to inevitable staff shortages in the coming weeks. In that event we would appeal for their help and patience as staff do their best in what could be very difficult circumstances.”

Emphasising that every action has a consequence, Dr O’Reilly said that the best things that people can do now are to get their vaccination or their booster jab, limit their contacts over Christmas and take lateral flow tests before meeting friends, family and loved ones.

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