AN EMERGENCY ‘surge ward’ has been set up in Sheffield to cope with the soaring number of urgent medical cases as the city’s hospitals are gripped by an unprecedented beds crisis.
Forty beds at the Northern General Hospital had to be closed at the weekend due to the norovirus, as the number of attendances and admissions reached record-breaking levels.
NHS managers in the city have been urging people to only go to hospital in case of real emergency, as the Northern General’s accident and emergency unit is swamped by people with minor complaints that could be treated elsewhere.
Hospital bosses said the Northern General and Royal Hallamshire hospitals saw 2,300 patients in one week alone, up from an average of less than 2,000.
Now the hospitals have opened an emergency surge ward of 34 beds at the Northern General to cope with the extra cases - and issued a public apology to patients who have had surgical procedures cancelled in recent weeks because of the lack of critical care beds.
Prof Mike Richmond, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “We have experienced the highest number of emergency attendances and admissions over the last few weeks than ever before.
“Many of these patients have needed emergency surgery and a critical care bed for their recovery.
“This has meant we have not been able to carry out the usual number of planned operations, because we have simply not been able to guarantee we would have the beds available, because emergency patients have had to take priority.”
Patients have told The Star hospital staff are blaming cancelled operations on the ‘beds crisis’, as critical care and post-operative wards are frequently too full to accommodate elective or non-urgent operations.
Prof Richmond added: “We have opened a surge ward of an additional 34 beds to help accommodate the extra patients we are seeing.
“However the situation has been compounded by having patients admitted with the norovirus and flu bugs which are prevalent in the community.
“This has forced us to close some wards temporarily to new admissions to prevent other patients getting the bugs.
“All our staff are working extremely hard to manage this unprecedented surge in demand and we apologise to those patients who have regrettably been affected.
“I can assure them we are doing everything we can to carry out any postponed operations as quickly as possible.”