Northern Ireland has pleaded for the military to help hospital services, saying they are “under pressure like never before” in the COVID crisis.
Health Minister Robin Swann said staff were “exhausted” and were “determined to activate any measures that could alleviate the situation in any way”.
Previously, he had called on the Department of Defense (MoD) to send up to 100 armed forces medics to Northern Ireland to support two hospitals which are struggling to cope with the number of coronavirus patients.
It comes after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was consider bringing in the army to help the ambulance service, which works under “acute pressure”.
Sky News understands that 80 to 100 military medics are to support Belfast City Hospital and Ulster Hospital in Dundonald throughout October.
“We received a request from MACA [Military Aid to the Civilian Authorities]”A defense source said.” It’s being reviewed. “
A decision is expected to be made next week.
Hospitals in Northern Ireland were operating at 106% occupancy on Thursday.
At the country’s only children’s hospital, clinical director Dr Karl McKeever said he was busier than he had seen in 25 years of practice – and that there could be worse to come .
“It’s going to be a long and difficult winter and the fact that it’s September and seeing these high numbers is very worrying,” he told Sky News.
“What we are seeing now is that the normal winter viruses that occur in October, November, December manifest themselves faster and in greater numbers and they have more strength because children do not have this. immunity they would have had before. “
Frontline staff ask people to only go to the hospital if it is really necessary.
In a statement, Mr Swann said he was “determined to activate any measures that could alleviate the situation in any way.”
“The current situation is different from the pressures of the early stages of the pandemic,” he said. “We have the continuing and serious threat of COVID combined with a growing environment of pressure cookers across all health and social service sectors.
“Staff are exhausted, having dealt with the pandemic and its aftermath day after day, month after month, for almost two years. I am deeply concerned about the pressures they are facing.
“I tell them directly – please be assured of the sincere support and gratitude from me as Minister and from the people of Northern Ireland. Thank you for your continued work and dedication and for going well beyond the extra mile .
“I am very aware of the difficulty of the situation. The system just does not have the capacity to cope with the levels of need and demand that are coming in.”
The Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have provided thousands of people to help with the government’s response to the Covid pandemic across the UK since the onset of the crisis.
The number of MACA operations has, however, declined considerably in recent months.
This means that the number of soldiers currently involved in everything related to this mission is very low.
Demand from Northern Ireland would represent a marked increase.
Mr Swann continued: “There is an intense effort to ease the pressures and plan for the winter.
“We all need to support our health service and its staff. Please do all you can to stop the spread of COVID.
“Please get vaccinated – first and second dose. Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do for the health service and its staff as we face winter.
“Each vaccine injection is another brick in the defense of our health service. “