AN NHS Shetland testing facility, next to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, for suspected coronavirus cases became operational on Tuesday afternoon.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Scotland has meanwhile risen from 23 to 27 with no new cases confirmed in Shetland. This leaves the number of confirmed cases locally unchanged at two. The two people infected remain in self-isolation.
During a press briefing on Tuesday NHS Shetland interim medical director Brian Chittick said the new facility, described as a ‘pod’ housed in a blue Portacabin to the left of the main entrance of the hospital, will enable the health board to respond to the need of testing without the risk of cross contamination with the main hospital.
People who have been to affected areas or have been in close contact with those infected, and have reported their concern to their GP or NHS24, will now be called in to give a swab sample for testing in a Glasgow laboratory.
Chittick said people should have their test results within 24 hours of attending the test facility .
“It’s been a rapid turnaround,” he said. “It arrived last night, has been plumbed in and the electricity is now working. It is clinically ready to receive the first patients.”
He added: “We have two confirmed cases; the contact tracing is ongoing, part of that contact tracing is analysis of whether people need to be tested. That has been happening over the last couple of days and isn’t quite complete yet.
“The pod is where patients are requested to come in, it is not a drop-in centre. It is specifically for those who have been contacted by our health protection team and feel that from a risk assessment they need to be tested.”
Health board chief executive Michael Dickson added: “The advice hasn’t changed. If people are worried they should go to the NHS website for advice. And if they are concerned they should contact their local GP who will be liaising with our local health protection team. Out of hours they can speak to NHS24 [Telephone 111].”
“It is part of that coordinated approach. We don’t want people sitting outside the Gilbert Bain Hospital waiting for testing. We want them to go there on a prearranged appointment.
“I understand the concern about where we have confirmed cases and the risk that they feel about transmission, but I have got to stress that these people followed the advice. When they started feeling unwell they contacted us through telephone and asked for guidance, and everything that should have happened did happen in these cases.
“It also helped us in terms of the contact tracing as to where they went to and when they started self isolating. To reinforce: the first thing anybody can do when they start feeling unwell is to self-isolate and then seek advice over the telephone.”
Referring to the ongoing discussions as to whether the two remaining fire festivals should be cancelled as a precaution, Chittick said the local health board is following national guidance.
“At the minute we are in a nationally defined ‘containment’ phase. That phase involves early identification, early diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment to contain the spread of the virus.
“We are aware of discussions that are happening at governmental level to whether that needs to change from ‘containment’ to a different phase, maybe ‘delay’, which would then impact on social gatherings, big events and things like that.
“That is not a NHS Shetland or a NHS Scotland call. That is a call that will come from government itself. We would just urge people to abide by the information that is out there, but it is not our role to advise, instruct or give permission to hold any events.”
Dickson added the important thing was to follow the guidance of good hand hygiene, and not share bottles and hip flasks.
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