A CHESHIRE West hospital currently has the ‘highest number’ of Covid-19 patients ‘in the north west’.

That’s according to Dr Susan Gilby, Chief Executive of The Countess of Chester Hospital, who told Cheshire West councillors yesterday evening (Wednesday, January 6) that her staff were presently treating 231 coronavirus patients.

Of those, 21 are in need of a mechanical ventilator.

Dr Gilby told CWAC’s Covid-19 outbreak board: “The Countess is in a really challenged position. We have had a lot of Covid in-patients since November, and we went into Christmas with 30 per cent of general and acute beds filled with patients who needed treatment for Covid.

“By this January, it was 40 per cent. Today, it is 50 per cent. They continued to come in today.

“We have opened our fifth Covid ward, and when I say 50 per cent, that means 231 positive coronavirus patients — the highest number in the north west of any hospital.”

Dr Gilby added that the situation had been exacerbated by a large number of hospital staff currently being off with Covid-19, or isolating due to coming in to contact with someone who has a positive test result.

She said: “We have 185 staff off. 60 per cent are off with illness. That is a challenge. We did have one [difficult] day about a week ago for emergency department performance.

“That was because two of the doctors were ill with Covid-19 that day. It is a difficult position to be in and we expect the numbers to increase over the next two weeks.”

The NHS boss finished her update to members with a stark warning that coronavirus admissions were now increasing in younger generations.

She added: “The thing we have noticed particularly today is that we have had a number of admissions of younger patients. We are seeing increasing numbers of people in their 40s or 50s admitted with chest problems.

“Today, we lost a 30 year old — it is affecting younger people in a pretty shocking way.”

Yesterday, CWAC said there were 247 new confirmed cases, taking its rolling seven-day infection rate to 509 per 100,000 people.

At its last Covid Outbreak Board meeting in early December, the infection rate was just over 100.