Two people in isolation as hospital splits in two
SENIOR health staff on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus have pleaded with the public to stay at home, as suspected cases start to take up beds at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.
As of yesterday morning, there were two patients in isolation at the hospital with suspected coronavirus, and health officials were waiting for those test results to come back.
The last week has seen massive preparations at the hospital, with building work to effectively divide it into two so that patients with Covid-19 are kept separate from regular patients.
The chest & heart unit is being turned into a ‘hot’ unit where patients will be assessed and the day patient unit has been converted into an intensive care unit for critical Covid-19 patients.
From this weekend there will be a triage area outside the Emergency Department so that patients can be streamed into either the Covid-19 or regular area.
All non-urgent operations were cancelled last week, but there was no calm before the storm because staff have been ramping up efforts with intensive training on topics such as how to ventilate a patient.
The head of acute nursing, Elaine Burgess, said a massive team effort was in progress.
‘This week there has been a huge amount of training for staff on this day patient unit that we’ve converted into a critical care unit.
‘It’s about familiarisation within the unit with the charts, with the ventilators, with how they are going to work in the teams.
‘One of the most important things is the personal protective equipment, how they put that on, how they take it off, and everyone has done a huge amount of work this last week.’
As suspected coronavirus cases start to bear down on the hospital, the mood, over the phone at least, remained calm and professional.
The director of hospital and adult community services, Dermot Mullin, described an atmosphere of steely resolve.
‘Everybody has been absolutely brilliant, I think because we got ourselves into such a good state of preparedness in such a quick space of time, that helps the feelings of the staff teams. We’d be telling you a lie if we didn’t say that there’s a kind of nervous anxiety because, to date, we haven’t had confirmed patients, but we know that they will undoubtedly come.
‘I think the mood is good, there are smiles on faces, we are practising good social distancing when we are in general public areas, obviously in clinical areas because of the nature of the work people are closer together.
‘But we’ve all got families, we’re human, we will have a level of nervous anxiety and anticipation.’
While the health professionals admitted to feeling ‘anxious’, if they were feeling frightened they were keeping it to themselves.
Mr Mullin said the last few weeks of lead-up had seen people pulling together like never before, with the States estates team, cleaners, external contractors, St John Ambulance and others working exceptionally long hours.
In her 34 years of nursing, Mrs Burgess said the pandemic was the biggest challenge of her career and she asked the public to listen to all the health advice and stay at home so that the curve of new cases does not accelerate too fast.
Ultimately their ability to stay on top of the crisis and stop the PEH from becoming overwhelmed depends on whether the community pays heed and stops the spread.