ALL wards in the Mater Hospital – apart from ten beds –  are Covid-19 patients, we can reveal.

The news comes as hospitals across the North are struggling to cope with the current third wave of the pandemic.

As pressures grow, one senior member of staff at the Crumlin Road hospital says “additional pressures” are expected over the next two weeks.

Liz McAlea, Interim Co-Director of Unscheduled and Older People Services at the Mater Hospital, said: “We are feeling the pressures now of the increased number of patients with Covid coming in quite sick.

“All our wards apart from 10 beds are patients with Covid. This week, we are flipping our last available ward to Covid to give us an extra 18 beds.

“More so than before, we have more additional patients requiring ventilatory support. It has tripled which is very concerning. We monitor our oxygen levels daily.

“We expect additional pressures on the site over the next two weeks.

“Because of the easing of restrictions over the Christmas period and people gathering, this could be a sustained surge. We had over 1,000 people testing positive and within 10-14 days they can develop complications and need to be admitted into hospital.

“All our staff have been redeployed across Belfast hospitals in order to meet the demand.

“Staff morale remains quite good. They have been asked to give up voluntarily leave and they have done.

“This week, Antrim Area Hospital and Craigavon Area Hospital are under severe pressure and we accepted some patients who were transferred from there. The worry is that if everyone becomes under pressure, I don’t know how much more help we can offer.”

Liz has a simple message for the public – please adhere to the restrictions in place.

“People are still not adhering to the restrictions. You still see people not wearing masks in supermarkets and not socially distancing and probably meeting people when they are not supposed to be.

“I would plea to people to abide by the restrictions. People need to help us in order for us to help them. This surge is far greater than any we have experienced before.

“People need to realise it is not just about Covid in our hospitals. We still have to treat people who have suffered heart attacks, major traumas or emergency surgery. Covid is an additional pressure.”

Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín is also appealing to the public to follow the health advice.

“I would also urge people to follow the public health advice, stay at home, wash your hands, only go out for essential reasons, wear a mask  and social distance.

“BT15 in North Belfast is second highest in the city on the NHS Dashboard for Covid-19 this week and this is an area with some of the most deprived wards in the whole of the north.

“There is fantastic work being done by our health care workers and we must do all we can to support them by following the guidance in the time ahead.

“There is hope on the horizon with the vaccine rollout but this is a time for us to be as careful as possible.

“Finally may I express my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those that have lost their lives during this pandemic.”