High numbers of extremely unwell patients are being seen in Morriston Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), prompting a call for the public to use alternatives wherever possible to help ease the pressure.
Ahead of the bank holiday weekend, Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Executive Medical Director Dr Richard Evans urged the public to only attend the ED, also known as A&E, for life-threatening illnesses and serious injuries.
He said: “Winter is always an extremely busy time for the health service, but in common with other health boards in Wales we are seeing even more acutely unwell patients than we normally would.
“We are treating heart attacks and strokes as usual, but also those with serious underlying and complex conditions. These people need to be seen in ED.
“But the pressure on Morriston and our other hospitals is being further compounded by the steep rise in levels of Covid, flu and other respiratory illnesses.
“As a result, we are asking the public to avoid ED unless absolutely necessary.
“Our staff will always prioritise the sickest patients, so those with non life-threatening illnesses or injuries are facing extremely long waits to be seen.”
Dr Evans said the public can help reduce the spread of infection and therefore pressure on services and staff by postponing visits to family and friends in hospital if they themselves have symptoms of a cold, flu-like symptoms or diarrhoea and vomiting or they have been caring for someone who is unwell.
“Respiratory infections spread quickly in hospital and older patients and those with chronic medical conditions are much more likely to get extremely ill if they catch them,” he added.
The call follows a significant jump in cases - over 170 between the 22nd and 28th of December - of flu, Covid, and several other viral respiratory infections at Swansea Bay UHB sites.
The infection control team are also reporting cases of diarrhoea and vomiting affecting patients in hospital.
Mask wearing has been reinstated across Swansea Bay’s sites as a result of the jump in respiratory infections, with visitors also urged to wash their hands and use the hand gels available on the wards if they do visit.
Dr Evans said: “The public can also help us by using other services wherever possible if they or a loved one are unwell.”
In many cases cold and flu-like symptoms, including sore throats and headaches, can be treated at home.
Community pharmacies can offer advice and over-the-counter medications for minor illnesses. This includes some prescription-only medication.
The 111 Wales website also offers a symptom checker and advice on next steps.
While the Minor Injury Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital is open between 7.30am and 11pm seven days a week at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, Baglan Way, Port Talbot, SA12 7BX.
An experienced team of specially-trained emergency nurse practitioners, triage nurses and health care support workers can treat children aged over one and adults for minor injuries including cuts and minor burns, sprains and strains, broken bones, dislocation of the shoulder, fingers and toes, bites and assaults.
But the MIU cannot treat illnesses including Covid and flu, coughs, colds, sore throats, breathing problems and strokes.