The Southern Health Trust has cancelled most of its acute outpatient clinics as the battle against the coronavirus steps up.
In a statement on social media the Trust said: ”Health service activity across Northern Ireland is being curtailed as a result of coronavirus.
“In the Southern Health Trust, with the exception of cancer treatment, ante natal, anticoagulant and fracture appointments, most acute outpatient clinics will be cancelled from Monday 16 March to Friday 20 March inclusive.
“The Trust will directly contact any patient whose appointment will go ahead.
“Where possible, some patient consultations will be via telephone.
“If you are not contacted by the Trust please do not come to the hospital.
“Your appointment will be rescheduled in due course.”
The statement concluded: “We apologise for the inconvenience and short notice but this decision has been taken in the interest of patient safety and to create hospital capacity.”
A short time before the Trust issued its statement the Health Minister Robin Swann said health service activity across Northern Ireland will ‘unfortunately have to be significantly curtailed as resources are diverted to care for coronavirus patients’,
Affected services will include non-urgent outpatient appointments, day cases, inpatient and diagnostic work. The process of scaling back provision will be phased in over the days and weeks ahead.
Due to increased pressures on GPs during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Department of Health and the British Medical Association have agreed measures to release additional capacity in General Practice. This will mean that GPs will prioritise work to address Covid-19 cases and practices may reduce certain services.
Mr Swann stated: “I want to be totally frank with the public about the scale of the challenge heading our way. Health services across the globe are coming under severe pressure. Ours is no different.
Minister Swann continued: “I obviously want to apologise to everyone who will have appointments and treatments postponed. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable.
“This is undoubtedly the biggest public health challenge for at least a generation.
“It will require a Government-wide and society-wide response, not only caring for those who fall ill but also providing support to anyone impacted by self-isolation and any social distancing measures that are put in place in the weeks ahead.
“I am very grateful for the support that has been evident right around the Executive table.”