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WHISTON HOSPITAL: Covid hospital interview

WHISTON HOSPITAL: Covid hospital interview

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THE number of Covid inpatients at Whiston Hospital could go “significantly beyond” current levels unless everything is done to get the virus under control, its medical director has warned.

Senior figures within St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have been appealing to the public with increasing frequency in recent weeks, as exhausted staff continue to battle a relentless wave of Covid patients.

Whiston Hospital currently has 284 inpatients with Covid-19, up from 274 on Friday, according to a trust spokesman.

“The last two weeks have felt the most difficult we’ve ever faced,” said prof Rowan Pritchard Jones, medical director at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

“And it’s been the rate of change, with the new variant that is now very clearly across the North West region as well.

“The numbers of patients that have come through has really, really jumped up.

“And we have felt it in every part of the hospital.”

Whiston is currently receiving “mutual aid” from other hospitals in the region, including Alder Hey and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, such is the severity of the situation.

The trust has also doubled its intensive care capacity and is redeploying staff from other departments to help treat the sickest patients.

This includes prof Pritchard Jones, who has stepped away from some of his surgical duties to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with colleagues in Whiston Hospital’s intensive care unit.

“You’re pulling staff in from wherever you can to support the most critically ill patients,” he said.

“And those staff are amazing because they’re still tired from doing this first time round, and they bring themselves in from their own families every day to come and do this.

“Theatre staff are back in supporting ICU. Specialist nurses are stepping away from their usual roles. They’ve been absolutely phenomenal.

“Even our surgeons now, because some of our elective programmes for low-risk patients we had to do differently, as we’ve now got more than a third of our hospital beds are filled with Covid patients.

“While we’ve zealously protected urgent and cancer operating, some of the more routine things we’ve had to reorganise, and I’ve got surgeons stepping into intensive care to help turn patients and that sort of thing.

“So it has been really challenging at the moment, and it continues to be.”

While admissions are still rising, infection rates across the Liverpool City Region are falling, however, albeit not as rapidly as seen in other areas.

Across the region, the infection rate dropped from 901.6 to 639.8 per 100,000 population in the seven days up to January 21.

Knowsley’s infection rate has dropped from 1188.7 to 908.6 – although it is still the highest in the country.

St Helens has also seen a big jump, falling from 834.2 to 704.8 per 100,000 population.

Infection rates remain perilous, however, and any drop will take a number of weeks before it impacts the rate of hospital admissions.

Much work is going on within the system locally to try and free up beds, with Whiston Hospital edging ever closer to 300 Covid inpatients.

The total number of Covid inpatients did not significantly rise over the weekend.

Prior to that, however, an entire ward of Covid patients were essentially being admitted every day, according to Prof Pritchard Jones.

The trust’s medical director said plans are in place that go “way beyond the 300”.

But if this happens, he said, it will further impact some of the routine care the trust provides, with resources being redirected to care for the sickest patients.

“Whilst I am prepared for that worst scenario, I am hoping for the very best from our community,” Prof Pritchard Jones said.

“That they are only making those most vital of journeys and keeping the space, and wearing their masks, and washing their hands because anything that can reduce patients needing to present to hospital at this difficult time has got to be a good thing for our entire borough.

“I’m so keen that everybody does their bit to get this under control. Because if you see some of the headlines at the minute, that say, across the nation, things are getting better.

“And across the nation they are. But there are three hotspots, and Liverpool is one of those, where we are not seeing that rapid improvement in the community rates.

“Things are still running high in this region.”

Kenny Lomas, Local Democracy Reporter

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