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Health / Former medical director in ‘awe’ of staff during response to Covid-19

THE NHS SHETLAND boss who was interim medical director of the health board during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic says he was in “awe” of the dedication of staff in the response to the outbreak.

Brian Chittick, who is now the director of community health and social care, praised the hard work of health and care staff during a meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday.

Former interim medical director Brian Chittick. Photo: Shetland News

It was a common theme during the meeting – the first public session since lockdown – as members reflected on the efforts of staff to guide Shetland through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a report to members reviewing the medical director role in 2019/20, Chittick said about the response to Covid-19: “I would like to acknowledge the hard work and efforts of those working within the health, care and support teams during these unprecedented times.

“In synopsis, their contribution has been awe inspiring and it has been a privilege to have worked with the individual teams during the pandemic.”

Chittick said after the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Shetland in March, there was a “significant shift” in the focus of the health board to ensure care was reconfigured to deal with a potentially significant number of patients requiring intensive care.

“There was a cessation of elective procedures and Gilbert Bain Hospital was reconfigured with the establishment of a respiratory care Unit to deal with ventilated patients and Ward 3 and a reconfigured Ronas Ward became the ward areas for the treatment of Covid-19 patients,” he wrote.

“The reconfiguration of the hospital was not an easy task in a 1960s building and credit must go to the hard work of the clinical and estates teams who worked tirelessly to ensure that the hospital remained fit for purpose during the pandemic.

“Significant workforce issues arose to ensure that there was resilience within the workforce to ensure adequate and safe staffing of clinical areas, as well as an ability to cover staff illness.”

He said a drive to decrease footfall in healthcare facilities was successful, and that there were some “excellent results” in remote working.

Chittick wrote that government guidance was sometimes changing hourly, with a strong focus placed locally on governance.

“Work was also undertaken in collaboration with other island boards and Scottish Ambulance Service to establish a robust pathway for medical evacuation of both Covid and non-Covid patients from Shetland to the mainland,” he added.

“Latterly the medical director has been involved in the strategic care home assurance group and has been the board lead for recovery planning to restart services in a safe and manageable manner.”

Chittick’s report also states that during the pandemic response phase the complement of junior doctors increased to 16 to support operations during potential surge periods in activity, as well as to provide workforce resilience.

NHS board member Lincoln Carroll said that those in management positions should also be applauded, as well as frontline staff.

“The staff have been fantastic, but I think a lot of that comes down to leadership,” he said.

Dr Kirsty Brightwell replaced Chittick in the medical director role last month.