The Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier Hospital Trust, Daniel Elkeles, has issued an update for patients, out-patients and residents on how the hospital is coping with Coronavirus.
The latest advice and information includes this tribute to staff:
“This is an unprecedented situation, and the way in which our different teams have pulled together to respond to COVID-19 is nothing short of exceptional.
"It's often said that, in times of crisis, those working for the NHS and in emergency services run toward the danger rather than away from it, and that's certainly true in this case.
"Our staff working in wards and departments, as well as those teams working behind the scenes, are facing this incredibly difficult situation with courage, camaraderie and determination.
"Every day, you do remarkable work, but I don't think I have ever been as proud of you all, and so humbled by your sheer determination and courage, as I am now.“
Mr Elkeles goes on to detail how normal hospital services have been affected:
Seven patients at Epsom and St Helier have died with COVID-19. All of these patients were older and had longstanding health conditions.
Anyone who arrives at hospital with pneumonia or respiratory illness is, for their protection, treated as a suspected case of COVID-19. Unfortunately, we do not have enough single rooms for all of these patients to be cared for in isolation, so we are caring for them in pre-determined wards at both Epsom and St Helier hospitals. As more patients are admitted, we are increasing the number of wards that are dedicated to caring for patients who are suspected or have confirmed COVID-19, as well as changing the internal layout of A&E and the way patients are moved through the department. We have also begun a big piece of work to create additional capacity in critical care (this includes intensive care and our high dependency unit).
To support our emergency response, we have had to make some difficult decisions regarding the planned care we provide to our patients, and have cancelled all private patient procedures usually carried out in Northey Ward.
The privacy and dignity of all our patients remains a priority for us but in these difficult times we have had to relax the rules around mixed sex accommodation on the cohort areas.
Temporary changes to outpatient and non-urgent appointments
We have temporarily suspended some of our planned care procedures. We appreciate this is a difficult development for our patients, but it is vital that we take steps to:
1) Reduce pressure upon clinical services and release staff to help with emergency pressures
2) Reduce face to face contact with patients
3) Ensure that we focus our efforts upon urgent cases
4) Manage risk appropriately.
As a result, we have suspended all routine outpatient and day case elective work (including paediatrics), although we are still providing care to patients who are referred urgently to us from a GP and running many diagnostic tests like CT and MRI.
In fact, we have just ordered an additional temporary CT scanner and mobile X-ray machines so we can care for our COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients in different areas and use different equipment.
If you are waiting for an outpatient appointment
If you have an outpatient appointment booked with the Trust, please wait for us to contact you. We are aiming to provide as many appointments and consultations over the telephone or by email as possible (sometimes known as a virtual clinic). Our Outpatient Booking Centre team are currently inundated with queries, so please bear with us.
We are still running urgent appointment clinics for patients with suspected cancers (our 'two week rule' clinics), and you can be assured that these patients will continue to be expedited.
As you would expect, we are monitoring this situation closely and are taking steps to protect our patients in line with national guidance. We may need to postpone further appointments as the situation develops.
Appeal to former clinical staff
If you or your colleagues know former nurses or doctors ask them to get in touch as we would be keen to hear from them. Please ask them to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public are being asked to limit visiting and to consider other ways of keeping in touch, like phone calls. Visitors must be immediate family members or carers.
Visitors are being limited to one per patient unless:
· the patient is receiving end-of-life care
· the visitor needs to be accompanied - accompanying visitors should not stay in patient, ward or communal areas, and this applies to inpatient and outpatient settings
· they are a partner and birthing partner accompanying a woman in labour.
No children under 12 should be visiting without the ward sister or charge nurse's prior permission. Hospitals and other health and care settings will restrict visiting to one hour per day at designated visiting times.
Slightly different rules apply to paediatrics and neonatal - two visitors are allowed and this may include a child under 12.
NHS and Government advice on Covid-19 is here.