Forest hospital chief: ‘We will cope if public do their bit’

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A SENIOR doctor has pleaded with people to follow wide-ranging government shutdown guidelines and stay at home as Lymington New Forest Hospital gears up to  cope with the spread of coronavirus.

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Dr Rachel Anderson, clinical lead of the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust which runs the Ampress-based hospital, said the next few weeks will be absolutely critical.

“As a hospital we are feeling we can cope provided the community do their bit and limit the spread – that is the bottom line,” Dr Anderson, a respiratory consultant at the hospital for 10 years, said.

“We will do the acute care and cope with what is coming if you can support us by doing the right thing,” she told patients in an exclusive interview with the A&T.

“As the saying in our emerging campaign goes – we are going to work for you, so please stay at home for us.”

Dr Rachel Anderson

Dr Anderson (46), added: “The lesson from the rest of Europe is that the situation changes really quickly. Countries that have been really successful have been so by their residents doing the right things – those who have stayed in and isolated have been doing better in fighting the disease.”

Dr Anderson said at the time of the interview – on Tuesday 24th March – there had not yet been a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the New Forest.

That there is no positive local cases would change soon, she stressed, as the virus was coming – and fast.

“I think there is no doubt it has already got very close [to us]. We are beginning to see at Southampton, I believe, increasing numbers, and the truth is if it can move at a lightning speed from China to Italy it’s not going to be held up by Beaulieu.”

Dr Anderson revealed she had caught swine flu a number of years ago while she was pregnant and worked in Lymington.

“This is completely different,” she stressed. “This is just on another level and the planning for which I have never seen before. I think we know this is going to take time and patience and commitment from all of us to get right.”

Summing up the mood among staff at Lymington hospital, Dr Anderson said it was “very positive” as well as being pragmatic.

“There is a feeling we are in a difficult time. We are preparing and working with staff to ensure we have the right things in place, and actually we are feeling pretty much that we can provide what the local community needs,” she said.

“What we do over the next four weeks will reflect in what we see in the figures over the next few weeks in terms of hospital and intensive care admissions.

“There was an illusion of people trying to prove to themselves and others that this will be better than it’s presented to be, that we do not want to really accept you have to be careful and there’s no possible way we could be in the same situation as Italy in three weeks – but I’m afraid that is not an impossibility.”

Lymington hospital (Photo: Steve West)

Lymington hospital had already taken steps to limit the number of people on site, she said.

Staff had enabled contacts via phone and Skype and written cards for patients and family members, while any routine or non-essential appointments at the hospital in the next two months will either be done over the phone or delayed.

The hospital was not lacking for equipment, she said, and while some personalised equipment numbers could be healthier, she was confident the government would boost numbers and the team was working well to cover all the bases.

The hospital was “well prepared”, she assured, and two retired nurses had already volunteered to help out.

The General Medical Council wrote to recently retired GPs on Monday afternoon asking for help and she was confident a number locally would offer their services.

Dr Anderson issued a thank-you to hospital staff, who he said had been working extra-long shifts but were maintaining a sunny outlook and caring “admirably” for patients.

“We are really very lucky that Lymington Hospital is a place where people like to work; they feel very committed to what is a lovely hospital with a brilliant team,” Dr Anderson said.

“It’s as you would like to imagine the NHS is – people working really hard and putting themselves in the way of risk and putting in huge amounts of effort to be part of it because they believe that it is the right thing to do.

“There is a level of frustration when you see people who do not seem to realise just how potentially difficult this can be – please we would ask that you help us, do make our job easier.

She also paid tribute to the charity which supports the hospital, Lymington Hospital Friends. “We really value the support we are getting from the Lymington Hospital Friends and thank them for all they are doing,” she said.

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