"IN the toughest times, good things happen."
At the March meeting of the Western Trust Board, Dr Anne Kilgallen reflected on the challenges posed to the organisation in the last 12 months but also how staff right across the organisation have adapted behind the scenes to support this Trust’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week marked 12 months since the first coronavirus patient was admitted to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.
"In the midst of the dreadful challenges and trauma experienced, individuals and teams have grown and developed at pace.
"Leaders have emerged at every level, and continue to do so, and Ann McConnell (director of Human Resources) has played a big part in sowing the seeds for this collective leadership well before pandemic," she said.
"There are 13,000 people who work in our Trust and each one has their own story of change to tell.
"There are service teams today that did not exist 12 months ago.
There is evidence of stronger connections between us as co-workers and yet there are 3,500 of us who now have the ability to work remotely.
"Our ICT Team has been magnificent in facilitating this.
"In the toughest times, good things happen."
Turning to the success of the mass vaccination programme roll-out, Dr Kilgallen said the Trust's teams continue to achieve "extraordinary" results, with over 74,000 doses of the jab now administered across three vaccination centres.
"Our Trust COVID vaccination teams continue to achieve extraordinary levels of vaccine delivery, by mobile teams in care homes, supported living facilities and day centres as well as in our three mass vaccination centres," she said.
"All care homes in the WHSCT area have had second doses delivered to original residents who were fit to have the vaccine.
"In supported living facilities, the second dose programme is at an advanced stage.
"The mobile vaccination teams have also delivered vaccines to users of Learning Disability Day Centres and day opportunities as well as to long stay mental health inpatients and plan to deliver to the homeless population in the coming weeks."
Turning to surgical services, she explained: "South West Acute facilitated red flag surgery throughout the recent surge by maintaining six lists per week.
"In an important development, we will continue to offer operating lists there both to Altnagelvin colleagues and to colleagues from elsewhere in the region for red flag surgery as part of the regional rebuild/reset plan.
"A new consultant surgeon joined the team there. Altnagelvin consultant colleagues are also supporting the South West Acute site with their on-call arrangements.
"We have advanced plans to commence an orthopaedic foot and ankle pilot there in March 2021.
"We are also working with the Health and Social Care Board in relation to unused capacity at South West Acute and how this can benefit the region.
"At Altnagelvin, we have maintained a ‘green’ elective surgical pathway which has allowed 10-12 operating lists to be carried out each week.
"Ward 43, a 12 bedded Gynae Ward became a protected surgical unit for all red flag and time critical surgery.
"This ensured that those most urgent cases were screened and operated in line with their cancer pathway."
Dr Kilgallen also acknowledged the significant role that the Trust's Intensive Care Units at both hospitals have played in both the Trust and regional critical care surge plans with 16 ICU beds open at Altnagelvin and 8 at South West Acute.
"This has been particularly challenging due to the need to augment our team by deploying nurses who are not trained and experienced in critical care but have other relevant training and experience such as in theatre nursing.
"Both units have had a key role in accepting transfers from across the region in supporting the network approach.
"The Trust has also contributed nursing staff to the first POD of the Belfast City Hospital Nightingale Critical Care."