Sixteen cases of Covid-19 cases have now been confirmed at Musgrave Park Hospital, the Andersonstown News can reveal.

The news comes as Health Minister Robin Swann told a Stormont Health Committee hearing today that vital PPE supplies promised by the British Government have not arrived. 

It is understood that the first confirmed case of coronavirus at Musgrave was confirmed last week. Since then, the number has increased steadily and now stands at 16.

Frontline staff at the Stockmans Lane site say they are being asked to work with patients who have coronavirus without the appropriate PPE equipment. 

We also understand there is significant concerns among frontline staff about the failure to test them for the virus. In that way, staff who don't have symptoms but not the coronavirus could return promptly to work. 

A hospital source said: “Musgrave Park is becoming a hotspot for Covid-19.

“Staff are still working on wards with people who have Covid-19 and not being tested.

“Some are treating patients with Covid-19 but still working in other parts of the hospital.

“This is case of not testing and isolating quickly enough.”

Belfast Trust declined to confirm the number of people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus at the hospital, saying only that there had been "a few cases".  Testing of staff was the responsibility of the Public Health Agency (PHA), the spokesperson added.

 Belfast Trust declines to confirm exact number of confirmed Covid-19 cases at Musgrave Park Hospital[/caption]
Belfast Trust declines to confirm exact number of confirmed Covid-19 cases at Musgrave Park Hospital[/caption]

Conor McCarthy from the UNISON branch at the Royal Victoria Hospital blasted health chiefs over their failure to test frontline staff, 2,000 of whom are now self-isolating according to the Belfast Trust. 

“Healthcare workers who are showing symptoms have a number to ring where they are given a date and time to come to a testing pod to be tested. They also have to self-isolate until they find out the result,” he explained.

“Department of Health and PHA guidelines are creating a class system when it comes for testing. Nursing staff are frontline workers but what about staff such as cleaners? This is completely unacceptable. 

“There are also domiciliary care workers in the community who are still required to get testing via their GP which is ridiculous. It is hard enough to get in contact with your GP at the best of times, never mind during a health crisis. If you phone 111 in Northern Ireland, you are told to contact your GP regarding testing, whereas in the rest of the UK, the helpline can refer you straight away to a test centre. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Yesterday, Royal College of Nursing Director Pat Cullen made a personal face-to-face plea to First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill for PPE for frontline staff treating coronavirus patients. She said neither could guarantee her sufficient supplies would be made "readily available"