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Coronavirus / Health board prepares for coronavirus to spread

WITH NHS Shetland implementing its pandemic management plans as part of nationwide attempts to slow down the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), people are being asked to exercise individual responsibility particularly when dealing with vulnerable members of the community.

Once changes to layout of the Gilbert Bain Hospital have been completed, the health board hopes to have as many as 30 beds in isolation units with trained staff available to treat those severely affected by the virus.

And as part of the ongoing Covid-19 preparations, non-urgent operations and treatment at the Gilbert Bain will be postponed, but urgent care for people with serious health conditions will continue.

People should however continue to attend appointments at the hospital and health centre unless they have been cancelled/postponed or they are suffering from symptoms of coronavirus.

Meanwhile the health board is asking people to think twice when considering a visit to friends and family members in hospital or in the many care homes across Shetland.

Interim medical director Brian Chittick. Photo: Shetland News

Interim medical director Brian Chittick said on Sunday that the focus of the health service was to protect those who are vulnerable and were likely to suffer most from contracting the virus.

“We are now focusing on those who are vulnerable in our communities, particularly those who are over the age of 70 and those with underlying health conditions,” he said.

“We are awaiting further national guidance for the potential of self-isolation for these priority groups. We are not there yet, but perhaps the community now needs to be thinking about how best to protect themselves.”

Chittick said hospital staff were following national guidelines in protecting themselves from infection and would, where appropriate, wear protective clothing when dealing with patients.

“We will be having patients suspected of having the virus in the hospital, that is why isolation is so important to decrease the risk for the rest of the hospital business,” he said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Shetland is expected to increase slightly over the next few days, however since community testing has stopped these figures become increasingly meaningless.

Eighty per cent of the population is expected to contract the virus at some time over coming months with most people only experiencing mild symptoms. However, the virus is life threatening to the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

Asked for how long he envisages the coronavirus crisis to continue, Chittick said the preparations were initially designed to delay the progression of the disease into the summer.

“I don’t underestimate the challenge, this is something we never had before,” he said.

“It is a pandemic that has opened the eyes of the whole nation. It is a challenge, but what I can say is that every bit of support that we ask for we are getting, whether that be from our partners or nationally.

“With that kind of support we feel confident that, at the minute, we are able to plan.

“It is a rapidly changing and complex situation. People try to learn about the disease as we progress through this and, fundamentally, there is nor vaccination or treatment – that also makes that task in hand more difficult.”

Meanwhile The Red Cross is looking for community reserve volunteers to sign up to help those in self isolation locally via this link.