More than 120 patients have died after contracting Covid-19 in hospitals in the Northern Trust area, it can be revealed.
The Belfast Telegraph investigation has now found that at least 206 patient deaths are linked to certain or probable Covid healthcare associated infections (HCAI).
The southern and southeastern trusts declined to provide details, meaning the true toll remains unknown.
An MP has called for an inquiry into Stormont’s decision-making throughout the pandemic.
The Northern Trust took four months to provide a response to a freedom of information request from this newspaper.
Within this area, which covers four local councils – Antrim and Newtownabbey; Causeway Coast and Glen; Mid and East Antrim, and Mid Ulster – 350 patients had definite or probable AIH.
Some 250 of them occurred at the Antrim Area Hospital. There were 123 deaths in total. Eight patients were also admitted to intensive care units but recovered.
A confirmed case of HCAI has disease onset 15 or more days after admission, while a probable HCAI has disease onset eight to 14 days after admission.
The Northern Trust said the highly infectious nature of Covid has proven difficult for hospitals, a close contact environment.
He said his hospitals frequently operated at overcapacity — 112% or more being common — in an environment that was never designed to contain and manage a highly infectious disease.
The trust added: “A lot of the early learning has meant that the flow in hospitals has changed significantly and is much more complex due to the virus and the need to separate positive and negative patients as much as possible, as as well as ensuring that all close contacts are traced and managed appropriately.
“The Trust has an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team with professional medical and nursing staff who provide IPC advice 24/7, continuously monitor the situation and make recommendations if necessary.
“They also coordinate the required response in the event of an outbreak.”
The Belfast Telegraph previously revealed that at least 78 deaths had taken place at the Belfast Trust: 44 at the Royal Victoria Hospital; 13 to Mater; 11 in Musgrave Park and 10 in Belfast City.
Five deaths have been recorded after patients were infected at the Western Trust: three at South West Acute Hospital and two at Altnagelvin Hospital.
Meanwhile, a report from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency details 355 Covid-related deaths of people of working age, including 26 (7.3%) in a health and care profession. social services.
However, the individual trusts said they cannot determine the number of employees who contracted Covid in the workplace because “it is not possible to conclusively and unequivocally prove” that staff contracted the virus while working.
The Association of NI Hospital Consultants and Specialists believes that “poor planning by policy makers” has led to higher levels of infection in hospitals.
He said from the outset Stormont took England’s advice and was “far too slow” to recognize the need for precautions such as face masks and higher-level PPE in hospitals.
People Before Profit MP Gerry Carroll said people who have lost loved ones in all trusts should be made aware of the measures in place to protect them.
He repeated calls for a public inquiry, saying it would give bereaved families a chance to get answers.
“We cannot have a ‘nothing to do here’ approach from the minister and the executive. There must be accountability now for actions taken and decisions made, not in the future when those involved in decision-making might be moved and removed from office,” he said.
“As we approach two years into Covid, people deserve to have these answers. If not now, then when?”
The Department of Health said healthcare-associated infections can be acquired through different routes, including the potential for patient-to-patient, patient-to-staff or staff-to-patient spread, as well as environmental contamination.
He added: “Healthcare-associated infections are a pervasive risk during a pandemic, particularly when community prevalence levels are high.
“The risk of transmission of Covid-19 infection in healthcare facilities has been significantly reduced through the implementation of a series of mitigation measures, including strict adherence to infection prevention and control practices. infections, use of personal protective equipment, frequent and thorough hand hygiene, and testing of staff and patients, including pre-admission testing.
“It is recognized that measures to reduce the risk of nosocomial infection can have an impact on health and well-being, for example by limiting visits from friends or family or reducing admissions during periods of increased risk.
“Northern Ireland’s health and social care system remains committed to continuous improvement, with a dedicated unit set up by the Department of Health to support these organisations.”