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A&E doctor warns spike in Covid patients will lead to 'risky situation' with cross infection - and urges younger people to get jabbed

A spike in Covid admissions to hospital A&E departments in Northern Ireland has led to further pressures and delays
Seanín Graham

A LEADING A&E consultant has warned a "sudden" spike in Covid patients is creating "risky situations" in overcrowded hospital emergency departments due to the threat of cross-infection.

Dr Paul Kerr also urged people to get their vaccinations after The Irish News yesterday revealed that two-thirds of people hospitalised with the virus have not yet been jabbed.

This is the first time such figures have been released for Northern Ireland, with the Department of Health confirming that for the week ending last Saturday, July 17, "approximately 66 per cent" of Covid positive patients were not inoculated.

Dr Kerr is based at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and said the statistics correlated with what they were seeing in A&E, with a notable increase in younger patients compared with previous surges.

Almost 44 per cent of 18-29 year-olds have not been vaccinated in the north at a time when cases of the more infectious Delta strain are soaring and hospital admissions are rising sharply.

The medic, who is vice-chair of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) NI, said they feared pressures will get worse over coming weeks when infections are expected to peak.

"We really have a very difficult situation because we have so many cases waiting to be admitted to bed. Then comes along the fourth wave with this sudden increase in people presenting with Covid," Dr Kerr said.

"At the moment we probably have fewer beds open than prior to Covid due to the re-organisation of services.

"At the same time we have this very severe crowding, with emergency patients waiting on trolleys. In some of the larger hospitals we have 30 to 40 patients waiting for two days to get a bed.

"When you mix that with the Covid situation, what you have is a really risky situation where you have patients getting cross infection. The staff, although all vaccinated, are worn out. They are having difficulty coping with that crowding.

"So I would encourage everyone to please to get vaccinated because I do believe that is one of the ways forward. The evidence is that the vaccine is highly successful."

Dr Kerr said there was a "mix" of people with the virus turning up at A&E.

"Compared to the last surge these are younger patients. They possibly are less severe, we are not aware of as many people dying earlier mercifully but inevitably because of this surge it still involves a large number of people," he said.

"We’re seeing people where the percentage who are vaccinated is just less and we do expect to see more pressures and ambulance queues in the next few weeks until this surge dissipates."

As the Department of Health begins to roll out a Covid app certificate for adults who are fully vaccinated, the consultant also said greater incentives should be offered to young people to get jabbed.

He suggested the use of vaccine passports to gain entry to night-clubs, a move that is happening in England in September - after its clubs controversially opened last Monday.

"You do have to ask the question, is it not time to get ahead with the vaccine passports in NI. You need a certain amount of incentive for young people," Dr Kerr added.

"The thing that young people will want to get back to socialising, going out to nightclubs and going out for a drink. Maybe the vaccine passport could be used to invite young people who are eligible to come and get vaccinated."

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