People in Welsh hospitals with Covid-19 is the highest since the pandemic began and a top doctor has warned it could get “significantly worse”.
There are 2,231 coronavirus patients in hospitals and Wales’ lead respiratory doctor said hospital pressures were “much worse than the first wave”.
It comes as Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board said Covid patients were occupying all its intensive care beds.
Hywel Dda will delay routine care due to a record number of Covid inpatients.
Intensive care units across Wales are treating the highest number of coronavirus patients since April as infection levels continue to soar.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg, the health board that covers Merthyr Tydfil, Pontypridd and Bridgend, has suspended some non-emergency services and is treating 500 coronavirus patients in an “unprecedented demand” on services.
Now Hywel Dda, the health board that covers parts of west and mid Wales, will temporarily postpone routine appointments from Monday as it is “treating the highest number of inpatients with confirmed Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic”.
Two other south Wales health boards – Aneurin Bevan in the south-east and Swansea Bay – have also suspended non-urgent care.
Wales has the highest infection rate of the UK nations – 530.2 cases per 100,000 people over seven days – and Dr Simon Barry, the national respiratory lead doctor in Wales, has warned the pressure on Welsh hospitals will get worse.
“It is fair to say, and this belief is reflected by my colleagues in other parts of Wales, it is exceptionally busy and much worse than it was during the first wave,” said Dr Barry.
“The hospitals are full – they are full of general medical patients. The difference with the first wave is that both streams are busy so we basically don’t have capacity in the hospitals.”
Almost 18,000 of Wales’ 117,367 Covid cases have been reported by Public Health Wales in the past seven days and patients with the virus make up 28% of all patients in hospital.
More than 3,000 people have died in Wales with Covid and Wales’ R number has risen to between 0.9 and 1.2 – and Dr Barry believes that is reflected in the number of patients in hospital.
While hospitals are filling up, Dr Barry said the impact of staff sickness and isolation was affecting the care that can be delivered, with a shortage of intensive care nurses a “major issue”.
“On intensive care there are a lot of nurses who are sick or are shielding,” said the consultant chest physician from Cardiff.
“You have to have one-to-two nursing, and they can’t achieve that. Similarly, if you are managing patients on respiratory wards where you have got sick people, and it is essentially a high-dependency ward, we don’t have enough nurses.
“That is reflected across every hospital in Wales. That is the major issue, it is about staffing.”
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has seen a 28% rise in coronavirus patients over the past week and 42% of all its patients in hospital beds have the virus.
The numbers of patients with Covid-19 in hospital beds in Wales set another record on Thursday – 2,231 across Wales – up 13% on the week before.
Earlier, Cwm Taf’s medical director Dr Nick Lyons said people’s behaviour was going to make a bigger difference, especially around Christmas, than the new Welsh Government rules.
“When I see our hospitals under the pressure they’re under, the difficulties that are going to be caused to the population we serve by the decisions made, then I think it’s as much making that personal link between what our own actions make as we prepare for Christmas,” he said.
“That’s going to make the real difference and that’s going to save lives.”
Case rates in the areas which make up the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board also include the two highest in Wales – Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend.
Aneurin Bevan health board has the highest number of Covid patients – 43% of its 587 patients – while Hywel Dda is using more of its field hospitals to manage “patient capacity and flow” in hospitals.
“The measures we are taking are intended to protect patients with the most urgent clinical need whilst allowing us to reprioritise staff to mitigate the increasing risk of harm in acute and emergency care, due to the pressures,” said Hywel Dda operations director Andrew Carruthers.