More than 100 cancer procedures cancelled by Belfast Trust
More than 100 people have had their cancer procedures, including surgery, cancelled by the Belfast Health Trust.
The cancellations are a knock-on effect of a rise in Covid-19 admissions, which are putting hospitals under increasing pressure, the BBC reported.
It has led to the trust taking the "extremely difficult decision" to cancel surgeries, in order to expand their Covid-19 ICU teams.
Chris Hagan, medical director of the Belfast Trust, said he was "really sorry".
"The last thing we would ever have wanted to do is cancel those operations," he said.
"I'm trying to reassure people that we will do our absolute utmost to reschedule those cases as quickly as we possibly can so that those patients don't come to any harm."
So far, 106 procedures have been cancelled.
Gareth Kirk, Chief Executive of Action Cancer, said: "We understand the difficulties and challenges that the authorities are facing and we sympathise with our clinical colleagues.
"But now seven months on what have we learned what has changed? So my question would be to the minister, to the department and to the executive - What is your strategy? What is your plan? You cannot keep closing down elective surgery."
A spokesman for Belfast Trust said: "We fully understand how important it is for many cancer patients to have surgery in a timely way and we are doing everything we can to ensure any cancelled procedures are rescheduled as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, outdoor shelters are to be built in the grounds of Altnagelvin for people attending the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department to be tested for coronavirus.
Work on the shelters started after increasing numbers were forced to wait in deteriorating weather conditions outside the A&E department because of greater pressures on the hospital due to the Covid-19 crisis.
SDLP assembly member, Mark H Durkan said the new measures should have been put in place earlier to prepare for what the described as "inevitable capacity problems".
"I cannot fathom how a makeshift shelter is only being built now," he said.
"How are people expected to stand out in the cold and pouring rain in the interim".