More than 1,200 people are now in Welsh hospitals with either confirmed or suspected coronavirus – just 9% below the peak in April.
Dr Andrew Goodall, the chief executive of the Welsh NHS, said that he continued to be concerned by the upward trend in hospital admissions linked to the virus.
He confirmed that there are currently 1,275 Covid-related patients in Welsh hospitals – 18% higher than last week and the highest number since late April.
He added that 57 of the most seriously unwell coronavirus patients are being treated in critical care – a 12% rise on last week, which equates to a third of the ICU beds in Wales.
According to latest figures, around 90 people with the virus are being admitted to Welsh hospitals each day.
Meanwhile, 11 hospitals in Wales are now reporting that they are at levels three or four, the two highest levels of demand, which Dr Goodall said showed “the increased pressure across the NHS”.
He said: “We expect demand for hospital treatment for people with coronavirus will continue to increase in the days and weeks ahead. It will take time to see the full impact of the national fire-break to work its way through the NHS.”
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Dr Goodall said that the Welsh NHS’ normal critical care capacity of 152 beds is now full, mainly with people who do not have coronavirus.
“We currently have 163 people in critical care at the moment. We have plans to expand critical care capacity if required,” he added.
“We estimate nearly 16,000 people have been discharged from hospital after being treated for coronavirus since the pandemic started.
“People admitted to hospital with coronavirus will typically stay twice as long as other emergency admissions, which has a knock-on impact on available bed capacity.”
Dr Goodall admitted that Covid-19 is spreading “quickly and widely” in communities and can “rapidly and easily” enter a closed setting like a hospital.
Dr Goodall said there were 192 cases of “probable” or “definite” cases of hospital transmission in Wales last week alone. This is equivalent to one in 40 of the confirmed cases reported nationally.
“We regret every case of hospital-acquired Covid. But I want to be clear, this is not as simple as a failure of hand-washing or poor infection control procedures,” he said.
“This virus is highly infectious and it can be passed on in the asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and symptomatic phases of the infection.
“It is incredibly difficult to prevent its spread in busy healthcare environments, especially with around 90 people with Covid currently admitted each day.”
“Everyone admitted to hospital is tested and 6% currently have Covid on admission,” he said.
“The rate has been highest in Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board where community transmission is also at its highest.
“But even here, hospital transmissions account for just 3% of the total cases in the area.
“Despite hospital transmissions, over 85% of our available beds do not have coronavirus patients, so care remains safe for the vast majority needing to access hospital.”
He concluded by stating that routine and planned appointments and procedures would continue for as long as possible.
“This means that the NHS is now busier. It has more than twice the number of non-coronavirus patients in hospital beds, because we have been able to admit more emergency and patients over recent months.
“While the number of people with coronavirus is moving towards the April peak, our information shows the NHS is doing more planned activity than than it was in the spring.
“Planned inpatient and day case admissions in September 2020 have increased by more than 160% compared to April. Cancer referrals have returned to expected levels and treatment activity was higher in August than in April. The number of new outpatients seen, whether face-to-face or remotely, was 75% higher in September than in April.”
He concluded: “Our plan is to continue to respond to coronavirus pressures in the NHS, maintain emergency services and as much NHS activity as possible for as long as is possible.
“We want to ensure that the NHS can balance its emergency response alongside services we have gradually restored.”
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