As of yesterday, there were 40 patients with confirmed Covid at York Hospital (up from 28 last week), and 36 at Scarborough Hospital – up from just seven a week ago. There are also three patients at the two hospitals who are suspected of having Covid.
The hope is that the continued fall in new Covid infections in the city of York, coupled with the effects of the new lockdown, will eventually lead to a reduction in Covid cases at York Hospital.
But with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning this week that the number of Covid-19 deaths could be twice as high this winter as in the first wave of the pandemic, and with the NHS being moved yesterday to its highest state of alert, the hospital has plans in place to deal with a Covid surge – or even a ‘super surge’.
“We have seen a significant increase in numbers, and the severity of symptoms is definitely higher,” Ms Liley said. “This is putting us under significant pressure.”
A third ward at York Hospital was converted for use as a specialist Covid ward on Tuesday, and the hospital now also has a dedicated ward for patients who it is thought may have the condition but who have not yet had positive test results. Scarborough Hospital also now has a third dedicated Covid ward.
At the moment, York Hospital is determined to try to continue reducing the backlog of patients needing non-urgent elective treatment for things like hernia and hip replacements, Ms Liley said.
But if coronavirus admissions continue to rise, and extra Covid wards have to be set up, there may come a time when elective procedures have to be scaled back – although treatment of cancer and urgent non-Covid cases will continue.
Specialist Covid wards can be quickly set up at the hospital by discharging non-Covid patients or transferring them elsewhere. There is capacity at the private Ramsay and Nuffield hospitals in York to take NHS patients if the situation continues to worsen. “And the Harrogate Nuffield Hospital is also being readied as we speak,” Ms Liley said. “That’s a great back-up plan to have.”
More of a problem than beds is staff. Staffing levels are challenging, Ms Liley admitted – especially with some staff off sick, either with Covid or other conditions. Bank and agency staff can be used to cover gaps – and if Covid cases increase and other hospital activities have to be reduced, staff can be redeployed to Covid wards.
The hospital also has a close working relationship with other regional hospitals, and if necessary, non-Covid patients can be transferred between hospitals to ease pressures.
Staff morale is ‘variable’, Ms Liley admitted. “I think staff are tired, and they are anxious – rightly so. But we have been through this before (in the first wave of Covid). “We learned lots from that, we have some really good experience, and we are well-stocked with PPE and other equipment.”
Patients urged to keep their appointments
PATIENTS due to attend York Hospital for non-urgent procedures or as outpatients are being urged to keep
The hospital’s deputy chief operating officer Melanie Liley said she understood that there would be patients who might be concerned about visiting the hospital while the number of confirmed Covid patients is increasing.
“But the important thing to remember is, if patients are due to come in for procedures or as outpatients, it is because they need to,” she said.
The hospital remains safe for patients, Ms Liley stressed.
There are strict infection control procedures in place – including the use of PPE, social distancing and good
hygiene – and Covid patients are kept in entirely separate areas of the hospital to minimise the risk of the infection spreading. “We don’t mix patients!” she said.
Any patients coming into hospital for planned procedures are also given a Covid test first as part of their pre-admission procedures, so that staff know what their situation is.
“So it is still safe for patients to come, and we don’t want them not to come,” Ms Liley said.