A SECOND ward will be opened up at Lymington hospital to treat the rising number of coronavirus patients, its clinical director has told the A&T, as she shares concerns how it would cope with a further influx.
Dr Rachel Anderson revealed more people are now arriving with Covid-19 having likely contracted it or spread it among family members.
“Now we are generally seeing people who have come into contact with family and friends who have then become positive, and that’s because the variant is more easily transmissible,” she said.
“We have definitely seen people whose adult grandchildren who care for them have had it.”
She said the low population density of the New Forest meant it had not been as affected as major cities, such as London and Birmingham, during the first two lockdowns. But the more contagious variant meant the district now faced a more potent threat.
“Our message is generally this is 70% more transmissible than it was before. We are seeing, in this area, a higher degree of positivity in patients that come in and it is going through groups of families more than last time.
“It’s worrying because we do not know what way this is going to go, depending on how the vaccine goes, how lockdown works and how people respond.
“I would say at the moment we are worried being asked to increase capacity [in the hospital] and we have got a lot of staff unwell.”
Urging people to stay at home where possible, Dr Anderson revealed she is currently recovering from Covid, having likely caught it while treating patients. She called for medics and carers to be among the priorities for getting the vaccine.
“It was pretty grim,” she added. “I was really unwell for two to three days, then very tired and exhausted.”
Dr Anderson said she displayed only a cough as a symptom and urged anyone feeling unwell to get a test, adding it is simple to book, and the results come back quickly.
She said: “The symptoms can start quite mild and if you find you have got it you can take steps quickly to isolate at home and then you don’t spread it to anyone else – including your family.”
She praised the testing programmes at local care homes, saying outbreaks had largely been curtailed apart from one or two minor incidents.
She was also complimentary of the speed of the vaccine roll-out, adding most of her elderly and clinically vulnerable patients had received it.
“We’ve already had over 2-million tests which, quite frankly, is amazing and I think we are going to hit that 12.3-million mark by mid-February, fingers crossed.”
She urged people to go and get the vaccine if they get an appointment, saying: “It’s the thing that is going to save lives and livelihoods.”
She admitted being upset at recent videos that claimed hospital wards were empty, saying: “Covid is real, it’s scary and it’s dangerous.”
Currently Lymington hospital is maintaining most of its normal services and clinics, including endoscopy, radiology and pre-booked blood tests. Staff have also been chosen to help run a clinic that will assess “long Covid” and its lingering effects on patients.
Some non-urgent aspects – such as an eye operation department run by University Hospital Southampton – has been temporarily stopped as staff have been redeployed elsewhere, such as the expanded community urgent frailty service.
Dr Anderson urged people to stick to the rules, warning the next 10 weeks will be tough.
She added: “We really did miss having our Christmas party here as that is a really good chance for our staff to get together and enjoy themselves, and obviously we couldn’t do that.
“I am dreaming currently of being able to give them a really nice summer barbecue and that is keeping me going.”