Amber alert as winter illness causes hospital bed shortage

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The Hospital is currently running under an amber status, meaning there are pressures within some areas such as acute medical beds. Five routine operations were cancelled yesterday, government sources said, but day surgery and urgent operations were maintained.

The Health Department said the Hospital was currently in a better position than facilities in the UK, many of which are on black or red alert, meaning that their Emergency Departments were beyond capacity, intensive care departments were full and all planned operations had been cancelled.

However, after one local patient who was affected by the cancellations raised concerns that high-level warnings about potential bed shortages had been ignored by Health bosses, the government said upgrade works required to maintain the Hospital had had an impact on the number of available beds.

‘The Hospital has a continuous programme of upgrade works that are required to maintain the site to the required standard and this has an impact on our number of available beds,’ Health said in a statement.

‘At this time of winter pressure the reliance on our medical beds can have an impact on our surgical public and private capacity, most notably when patients require isolation as a result of infection. This is currently the situation that led to the regrettable requirement to cancel some of our patients yesterday.’

Julia-Anne Winn (33) said she had been left upset and disappointed that her life was now effectively on hold until her operation, which was due to be carried out privately yesterday, could be rearranged.

She had been due to undergo the second part of a full hip replacement after being diagnosed with septic arthritis in October. She has been on crutches since August and is unable to walk or drive.

‘I want to make it clear that the consultants, doctors and nurses have been absolutely fabulous, but it has now come to light that 18 months ago they had warned there was going to be a bed shortage and management have ignored them.

‘I have been told I am urgent, but it could be a couple of weeks. I actually burst into tears when they told me – my life is on hold at the moment. They did say they would see if management would come and speak to me but they refused.

‘I am very disappointed and I am upset. This is something that could have been prevented.’

According to the Health Department, Jersey is currently operating in a ‘more efficient manner’ than the majority of UK acute hospitals.

‘The pressures faced at present reflect the UK national and international health and care position at this point of winter,’ it said in a statement. ‘Flu and gastrointestinal conditions, as well as exacerbation of chronic conditions, are common at this seasonal time. Again, this is consistent across all health and care providers.

‘Islanders are advised that due to winter pressures, the Hospital is currently extremely busy. For this reason, Health and Community Services politely request that people only come to the Emergency Department for treatment if they have a genuine medical emergency. Anyone who requires non-emergency treatment or advice can call the out-of-hours GP via the Hospital switchboard on 442000.’

Two years ago a crisis meeting was held between GPs and the Health Department after a flu pandemic resulted in one of the busiest Christmases Jersey medics had seen. The emergency conference discussed plans to limit the effects of the virus in future winters, including a new vaccination programme for secondary-school pupils.

At the time, Dr Nigel Minihane, head of the Primary Care Body, said that cases of the flu typically spiked in December and again in January when children returned to school after the Christmas break.

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