Emergency as Covid-19 cases soar

Planned appointments and non-urgent surgery on hold till March

Friday, 29th January 2021 — By Tom Foot

St Mary's

THE top boss of St Mary’s has warned that the hospital is under intense strain as it cares for the largest number of Covid-19 patients yet.

Professor Tim Orchard, who is the chief executive of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust which runs the hospital in Paddington, revealed intensive care capacity had been expanded by 150 beds to meet the surge in demand for emergency patient care.

Twenty-three general wards across the NHS trust’s three hospitals, including Hammersmith and Charing Cross, are taken up by patients with the coronavirus.

One thousand NHS workers have taken on new roles during a massive shake-up of hospitals, while all planned appointments and non-emergency surgery has been cancelled until at least March.

In a report to the board this week – the public meeting has been cancelled because of the pandemic – he said: “Our largest number of Covid-19 positive patients to date was on January 20 when we were caring for 492 patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 on their current admission. One hundred and thirteen of these patients were being cared for in intensive care. We currently (as of January 25) have 476 patients who have tested positive on their current admission, 123 of whom are being cared for in intensive care, and with a total of 136 patients in our intensive care units.”

The hospitals are also aiming to treat emergency patients within 24 hours because of the pressure on recovery beds.
The children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s has been turned into a Covid ICU.

“Our capacity expansion has relied on almost 1,000 staff being able to take on temporary new roles, for some or all of their time,” added the report.

Prof Orchard said work was being carried out to stop the spread of infection inside the hospital – known as hospital-acquired infections – with “regular inpatient testing and enhanced cleaning”.

The trust has administered more than 9,000 vaccination doses, the majority of which to staff, amounting to around 60 per cent of the workforce.

Unlike with the first Covid-19 wave, there are adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. The trust had doubled the size of staff counselling services, he added.

Imperial is also working with the English National Opera, which is developing an intervention against “Long Covid” using singing and breathing exercises. Singing lullabies has been shown to enhance recovery in patients experiencing symptoms after their initial Covid-19 illness.

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