Scottish hospitals prepare for Covid-19 peak

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Staff must now wear PPE at all times

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NHS staff must now wear PPE at all times


The Western General Hospital in Edinburgh is in fact divided in two. Red equals Covid patients and green is non-Covid.

It is remarkable to see what is going on here.

In a place where finding a free bed was generally a scarce commodity, the rooms were literally emptied.

Operating theaters and recovery rooms are being transformed into intensive care centers ready to cope with a rapid increase in the number of cases.

The hospital is already busy treating patients; the first building they reconfigured, usually used for elderly medicine, is full.

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Rooms have been emptied to make room for Covid patients


Site manager Chris Stirling, whose job is to manage this ever-changing image, tells me that it’s like playing a giant version of the computer game Tetris, which can change from hour to hour.

“The team has done an incredible job in the past two weeks creating an additional 250 beds for Covid’s response,” he said.

“It involved a huge effort on the part of many teams to relocate a number of departments and services while at the same time reducing part of our planned activity to create space.”

Quick strategy

I cross an empty room. It’s strange. By the end of the weekend, they expect it to be full too. Then they will find more.

The Western general has a long history in the management of infectious diseases. The hospital was one of the first in Scotland to treat Covid patients.

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Dr. Claire Mackintosh says it’s not something the NHS expected


Dr. Claire Mackintosh is based here. His team has been at the forefront of developing a rapid strategy to deal with this sudden wave of patients affected by a virus that we know so little about.

She admits that she is worried.

“It is not something the NHS thought, rightly or wrongly, to come,” she said. “We have received a lot of support from the public, but we really need them to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with others.”

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The Covid room was an orthopedic room a few weeks ago


Dundee’s largest hospital, Ninewells, is also busy and they too need to reconfigure at a rate.

Orthopedic services, trauma beds and outpatient services are now all reserved for Covid patients.

The hospital normally has eight intensive care beds, so far they have created 19 with emergency plans to create 50.

It is clear that the staff are busy but they are not overwhelmed and those to whom I speak say that they feel safe at work.

On the day of my visit (Thursday), protective equipment – such as gowns, masks and visors – was only necessary when they were close to the patients, who are in individual departments at the time of Evaluation.

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Higher level PPE is worn for highly dependent patients


It has also been extended to the maximum level for those working in intensive care or highly dependent.

But a few hours later, the instructions are updated to indicate that PPE must be worn on all Covid rooms.

This is another example of the constantly evolving situation in the fight against coronaviruses.

I am taken through the rooms by respiratory consultant Dr Tom Fardon.

He has been at the forefront of Covid treatment plans here in Dundee.

Dr. Fardon says the team here feels well prepared. Scotland is a little behind the rest of the UK in terms of the number of cases and deaths it has registered.

Coronavirus death in Scotland

He hopes that the relatively early introduction of social distancing measures in Scotland will save them time to expand their capabilities. But even if they have the beds, they need staff to recover.

He says, “It is really important that we test the staff. Three weeks ago, we launched an intensive testing program for staff to encourage them to re-enter the workforce.

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Dr Fardon outside the Covid rooms


“To date, more than 700 NHS Tayside staff have been able to return to work,” he says.

As a front-line observer, it is very clear that the NHS is capable of remarkable things.

To even conceive of creating such a capacity and so quickly would have been a distant dream not long ago.

But the staff mobilized through health and social services to get there.

The future is a concern. In the coming months, who will miss treatment and what other services will suffer?

But for now, everything is on the bridge to cross the days to come.

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