East Surrey Hospital – How have they Coped?

We recently interviewed Michael Wilson CBE, Chief Executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) about the impact that coronavirus has had on East Surrey Hospital. Early March saw the first case of Covid – 19 enter its doors, however Mr Wilson explained that the speed, response rate and extremely unique way the staff reacted to unprecedented circumstances created an immense sense of pride. The support and willingness to go above and beyond their roles and job titles has been fundamental to the hospital’s success in coping with the crisis. To date the hospital has cared for 950 positive cases with there being 245 mortalities following a COVID positive rest result.
Where possible and where their skills have allowed it staff have been moving in-between departments in order to be able to support staff shortages. At its peak 160 nurses moved from their usual wards to be able to support the intensive care staff, and doctors filled in where needed. He said: “Our staff are still working incredibly hard to care for people with coronavirus and on behalf of all of them I would like to say thank you to our local residents. Thank you for your support – it really does lift us in very difficult circumstances. Crucially, thank you for following the national guidance. It is vital that everyone continues to look after each other by keeping a safe distance from others.”
He explained that this is the first pandemic which he has experienced in his forty year career and that it has been overwhelming to both himself and the hospital staff and that the hospital has ensured that patient care across the board has not been compromised. Both during the crisis and moving forward the hospital has put many preventative measures into place to protect and reduce the risk of a second wave of the virus returning.
Social distancing within the hospital is of course a necessity and they are ensuring that this is being maintained. There are a reduced number of beds being used in the wards so that the infection risk is eliminated.
Theatre lists have been cut by half and planning before time critical surgery (such as cancer) has already been put into place but this has been tightened with patients now having to isolate for 14 days before their operation. A swab is given to all patients at the beginning of their 14 day isolation period and their temperature is also taken. On the day of surgery a Covid-19 test is given and the results are available within 20 minutes which helps monitor the virus.
Across the country there has been a shortage of PPE and Mr. Wilson explained how deeply gratefully they were for the many donations the hospitals had received from local schools, organisations and invididuals. The hospitals procure team works twenty four hours per day and seven days a week and have supported the hospitals needs for equipment throughout ensuring that front line staff need the correct equipment. Adapting to the hospitals needs has been phenomenal.The infrastructure is immense and has included an incredible challenge when it comes to IT as well as intense deep cleaning on a constant basis. Embracing digital technology and depending on a patient’s condition there has been the option for more to be able to attend online consultations via certain online platforms therefore creating virtual outpatient appointments which are preferable to some patients and could help with controlling social distancing within the hospital environment.
Understandably the Emergency Department’s activity has dropped significantly but Mr Wilson was keen to convey that patients should not stay away from it’s doors if they have a genuine serious health issue.
In recent weeks there have been many fund raising events across the local communities to raise money for SASH. Mr Wilson explained that staff have been making lists as to how they would like the funds to be used. Ideas have included improving the rest areas. He made it extremely clear that it was absolutely crucial that the funds raised were spent on the staff as opposed to upgrading NHS equipment.
The hospital has been monitorig the morale among staff and many have seen and been through difficult times. The mental wellbeing of the staff is high priority and counselling and treatment for PTSD is available so that those affected can be helped.
Ensuring we work together as a community to maintain the ‘R’ rate is vital and ofcourse will in turn help our local hospitals

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