Northern Ireland news

Covid outbreak at Altnagelvin Hospital, as Craigavon ambulance staff also self-isolating following golf trip

Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

DERRY'S Altnagelvin Hospital has become the latest to be hit by a Covid-19 outbreak, with 18 members of staff on a stroke ward off work and self-isolating.

Three staff tested positive for the virus and a further 15 have had to leave the ward and remain at home "as a precautionary measure".

Dr Bob Brown of the Western health trust said: "All 23 patients on Ward 40 have been tested and there are currently no positive cases on the ward.

"The trust is taking all the necessary infection prevention and control measures to protect our patients and staff and the Department of Health and Public Health Agency have been informed of the situation."

The news came as it was confirmed that almost a third of staff at a Co Armagh ambulance station are self-isolating.

Ambulance Service (NIAS) chief executive Michael Bloomfield said 10 staff of the 53 based at the Craigavon station were infected with Covid-19 during a golf trip to the Republic, after one of them had earlier contracted the virus from a family member.

A further six people working in the Southern Division station have also been advised to self-isolate, although none are seriously ill.

Fifteen people were on the golf trip first reported in the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Bloomfield told Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme that 12 of those on the excursion were ambulance staff.

"As a result of the staff being away together that's how it happened and it highlights how contagious the virus is."

The first case was discovered on September 13 and he said he is confident there had been no patient contact since the infections.

While the loss of 30 per cent of the workforce is likely to increase pressure on the already strained service, Mr Bloomfield insisted there was no reduced response time in the area as staff could be brought in from other areas.

He said the last six months had been a "challenging a time" and NIAS personnel had "worked exceptionally hard and needed down time".

The affected employees have been getting occupational health support and if there are no more symptoms will be back at work within days as their isolation period comes to an end.

The Southern trust area has been badly affected by coronavirus, with two hospitals subject to high-level investigations following the deaths of 11 patients in outbreaks inside the facilities.

The first Level 3 Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) investigation was announced at Craigavon Area Hospital after the deaths of four patients who contracted Covid-19 while being treated on a haematology ward.

Two more patients connected to that outbreak - which saw 14 patients and 23 staff test positive - have since died.

The deaths of five of 11 patients infected in a male medical ward at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry also led to an investigation there.

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