The Guardian: Concerns raised at Weston hospital where coronavirus spike led to admissions being halted

This article was written by Ben Quinn of The Guardian. You can read it here:

NHS staff at a hospital that has stopped taking new patients amid a Covid-19 spike have lodged a series of concerns, including that they are not routinely being informed of when colleagues test positive for the virus.

The concerns were laid out in a letter from union representatives to management at Weston general hospital in Somerset, which is now testing all staff while carrying out a deep clean.

Another concern raised by Unison was that priority for testing was not being given to BAME staff. The death rate from coronavirus in English hospitals is more than 2.5 times greater among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds than among the white population.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS foundation trust  said on Wednesday that as many as 40% of staff from a cohort tested after contact with infected patients were found to be positive.

The trust’s chief executive, Robert Woolley, told the BBC the figure was from a sample testing last week and authorities were now attempting to understand the scale of the infection. More than 60 patients were found to be infected last weekend.

“By the end of the week I should have the results that tell me what we’re dealing with, in terms of the scale of infection inside the hospital,” Woolley said.

“Then we’ll be able to put our plan together to reopen but I need to be clear that it’s probably at least a week possibly longer before we’re able to do that.”

Concerns have been heightened about the spread of coronavirus among NHS workers after the trust said there was “an emerging picture” of staff with no symptoms testing positive.

The hospital in Weston-super-Mare stopped taking admissions, including into its A&E, from 8am on Monday “to maintain patient and staff safety” as a result of a high number of infections.

Unison’s south-west regional secretary, Joanne Kaye,said on Thursday that urgent changes were needed to reassure both staff and patients about safety.

“The biggest concern is that staff aren’t routinely being informed when their colleagues test positive for the virus.

“This means they’re unable to make informed decisions about whether they need to be tested. The trust must make sure managers tell staff at the earliest possible opportunity.Advertisement

“Many of those who work at the hospital only heard about the temporary closure through social media, which is a major communications failure. They must be told directly, not pick things up secondhand through friends and family.”

The union expressed concern that BAME members of staff were not being prioritised for testing given the high levels of mortality in that grouping of staff over the course of the pandemic.

The local MP, John Penrose, said he had been told by hospital authorities that there was no evidence to show whether recent cases had been caused by cross-infection in the hospital, visitors to the town’s seafront “or something completely different”.

“They’re running tests which should prove the source, but we won’t know until the results are in,” he tweeted.