Coronavirus / NHS under pressure but critical services still continuing, health chief says

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson says patients can be reassured that while the local coronavirus outbreak has increased pressure on the health board no critical services have had to be stopped.

Around 100 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded since Christmas in Shetland, creating a large workload for the health board’s contact tracing team.

Patients have also been admitted to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in recent days with worsening symptoms, with some flown south to the mainland.

Today the death of a patient who had tested positive was included in official figures, as were three new cases.

Dickson confirmed that NHS Shetland staff members have been among the large number of folk needing to self-isolate over the last few weeks through contact tracing.

“The impact of this recent outbreak has been significant, and we have had a number of staff needing to self-isolate but due to the commitment of the teams, services have not had to cease activity,” he said.

“Patients can be reassured that whilst the outbreak has increased pressure on the NHS we haven’t had to cease critical services.”

NHS Shetland’s director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said that a separate 10 bed unit has been made within Gilbert Bain Hospital’s ward three for Covid patients.

She clarified that the reopened Ronas ward is only designated as an overspill space for Covid patients.

The Scottish Government, meanwhile, has announced £45 million of new funding that will help local authorities to provide support to schools and families as they deal with the challenges of remote learning.

Councils may use the funding for purposes including recruitment of additional staff, additional digital devices or to provide additional family support.

This comes on top of £160 million already committed for education recovery.

Education secretary John Swinney said: “I am grateful to our hardworking, dedicated teaching professionals for their intense work to plan, organise and deliver learning.

“The virus will be beaten, and schools will return fully to intensify our efforts to achieve excellence and equity for all of Scotland’s children.”

Shetland College also said on Wednesday that it will primarily offer remote learning for most students for the immediate future.

Under level three regulations, minimal face to face learning is permitted for practical based classes.

Shetland College will continue with minimal face-to-face teaching throughout January and February, essentially for practical based studies where students’ progression and attainment may be adversely affected by no access to the college premises.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021