Freeze puts squeeze on region's emergency wards

Reporter:

Garth ApThomas and Chris Hogg

HEALTH bosses are taking special measures to cope with the number of people needing treatment due to freezing conditions.

Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital has set aside additional space to cope with demand.
And stark warnings about the risks posed by plunging temperatures have been issued to residents in the Chester area.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board says the past week has seen an increase in patients attending the Maelor’s accident and emergency (A&E) department.

Medical staff are treating people for complaints including injuries caused by slipping on ice and respiratory problems.

Demand on services is so great that people seeking treatment are now being urged to “think carefully” about the help they need.

A spokesman for the health board said: “Over the past week there has been a marked increase in attendance at A&E.

“Monday was very busy and the department opened additional space to help care for the increased number of poorly patients who arrived by ambulance.”

Dr Paul Hughes, assistant medical director at the Maelor, added: “We would ask people to think carefully about whether they need to attend A&E or whether it would be more appropriate for them to see another health professional, such as their pharmacist, NHS Direct or a GP.

“Our A&E departments are extremely busy so anything that can be done to reduce the pressure on the service will help.

“We would ask the public to support us with this.”

In Chester, health officials say widespread ice and bitterly low temperatures pose an increasing risk to vulnerable people.

Steven Winterson, a spokesman for the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Trust, said: “There have been slips and trips on the ice but the biggest issue is elderly people coming in hypothermic.

“It’s a small number but when they come in it’s quite serious.”

Mr Winterson appealed to residents to look out for their neighbours during the freeze, adding: “If people know of elderly or vulnerable residents, please keep an eye on them and check they’re OK.”

Meanwhile, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is warning that the cold spell can trigger an increase in susceptibility to the flu virus.

Although the number of reported flu cases is so far at a “mild” level, there remains cause for concern and officials are encouraging people entitled to the free flu jab to make use of it.

It is suspected strains of the swine flu virus may still be circulating and as a result, this year’s vaccine also includes vaccination against the swine flu strain.

See full story in the Leader

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