Belfast’s Ulster Hospital is under ‘extreme pressure’ because of COVID-19, with over 150 people waiting to be seen in its emergency department, including 50 on trolleys.
In a post on Twitter, the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust urged people only to come to accident and emergency if their condition is life threatening, warning that they will otherwise face a very long wait to be seen.
Instead, the trust has suggested that people contact their local pharmacy or out of hours GP.
The hospital, located in the suburb of Dundonald, recently closed two wards because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Over the past month, 96 patients tested positive for the virus upon admission, while a further 16 tested positive following their arrival.
In a statement to the press, the trust said:
"COVID-positive patients are admitted to side rooms/bays which are designated for COVID patients.
"There are a number of designated wards for COVID-positive patients.
"On occasion, non-COVID patients are admitted to these wards due to their clinical condition and requirement for specialist treatment, such as respiratory, however, they are segregated.
"All patients are risk-assessed on admission and prior to placement and are kept under review during their stay. This includes regular testing, as per the Public Health Agency guidance.
"Infection prevention and control measures are in place in every ward."
In Northern Ireland 1,030 people were confirmed to have tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, while a further eight fatalities were recorded.
Statistics released last month revealed that hospital capacity in Northern Ireland was operating at 107%, with nine out of 12 hospitals over capacity.
The province’s Department of Health has said it “fully recognises the very difficult winter ahead” and is putting in place contingency plans for a winter surge.
Main image: A nurse dressed in PPE greets a patient arriving at accident and emergency. Picture by: Michael Cooper/PA Wire