An employee at Bedford Hospital has spoken exclusively to the Bedford Independent, about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, saying the NHS is “not ready to cope with this.”
The employee, who did not want to be named, said they believe the impact on our health service is going to be monumental, with hospitals still getting over one of the worst winters imaginable.
“One patient out, another patient immediately in. 100% capacity for months on end,” they said. Indicating everyone from medical staff to administrators are exhausted already.
“I have to admit, I am dreading the next month or so, but if there’s one thing us workers in the healthcare system can do, it’s keep going. And I think we’re going to have to.
“1 in 5 UK workers are now likely to be off sick at any one time, and NHS staff will be at the front of the queue.
“In a time where there are over 44,000 nursing vacancies and 10,000 medical vacancies across the system, the NHS is already fatally understaffed.
“If 20% of the existing workforce then disappears, we’ll be looking at even worse scenarios than trolleys in corridors and overflowing bed pans.
“We may well be looking at prioritising the sickest, meaning every patient with any illness will be facing more problems. Some patients in need may well just have to fend for themselves.”
Despite this, not all staff are being given personal surgical masks, with these being reserved only for medical staff.
Meaning those who support them may not be able to carry out their tasks if they have to self-isolate.
Recovery rate remains high
While the employee paints a frightening picture, studies have shown that 80% of people who get COVID-19 only have mild symptoms and the survival rate is reported to be around 96% to 99%.
While it is more dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying conditions, studies in China found that 90% of those in their 80s who caught the illness survived.
But the employee says it’s not the virus that’s the biggest danger.
“A few days ago, we had a full ward of 24 patients with two registered nurses on shift, one of whom was called in that morning and could only work half a day. Leaving one nurse covering a whole ward.
“I witness tears on a daily basis, not just from patients and relatives but also staff. The invention of 24-hour news cycles is not helpful in this situation, it merely increases the panic.
“What we need right now is solid leadership, decision makers and a well-informed and vigilant population who takes hand washing more seriously than it apparently has in the past, without hoarding the increasingly scarce resources available.”
“The problem then is not necessarily the virus, but the reaction to it. The knock on effects, as seen quite badly in Italy and Iran, are potentially catastrophic and we need to do more to try and not reach the point where doctors and nurses – already at breaking point – are not tipped over the edge.”
“I urge you to take this seriously and do your bit; make sure you wash your hands at every possible moment, check in on your loved ones and your neighbours and take the advice from the Government, the NHS and WHO.”
In a statement on their website, Bedford Hospital said “The NHS in Bedfordshire and Public Health England (PHE) are well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases.
“The NHS has put in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and NHS staff while also ensuring services are available to the public as normal.
“Testing of suspected coronavirus cases is carried out in line with strict regulations. This means that suspected cases are kept in isolation, away from public areas of the hospital and returned home also in isolation.
“Any equipment that come into contact with suspected cases are thoroughly cleaned as appropriate.
“Specific guidance has also been shared with NHS staff to help safeguard them and others.
“Patients can be reassured that their safety is a top priority, and are encouraged to attend all appointments as usual.”
They also added the following advice to help people avoid catching coronavirus:
- Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
Meanwhile the Government has defended its ‘delay’ plans to slow down the spread of the virus.
Speaking to the BBC, the UK’s chief science adviser said that telling those with a high temperature or cough to self-isolate for a week will have the “biggest impact” in the fight against coronavirus.
Sir Patrick Vallance said the new advice, as the UK moved to the next “delay” phase of tackling the outbreak, was a “big intervention”.
At the time of publication, 798 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, with 32,771 people tested so far. Ten people who tested positive have died.
Health officials have said they believe the actual number of people infected could be between 5,000 and 10,000.
There have been no cases confirmed cases in Bedfordshire.
You can find the latest information and advice from Public Health England at www.gov.uk/coronavirus