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Council / Council chief’s call for compassion as staff do their best in ‘extremely challenging circumstances’

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

PEOPLE have been asked to be compassionate to council employees working in what has been described as “extremely challenging circumstances” after staff in care and on ferries were verbally abused in the past week.

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said it comes as the local authority reviews its services on a daily basis due to staff absence as Covid cases rise.

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The Bressay ferry for instance is currently on a restricted timetable due to positive cases among crew, and there are warnings that other services could be affected.

“I recognise that stepping down and restricting our services is inconvenient and frustrating but we have had staff in both care and ferry services who have been verbally abused over the last week, which is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Sandison told Shetland News.

“I am absolutely clear my staff are doing their very best for this community with the limited resources we have available.

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“Reducing and stopping services is never a decision taken lightly, I would therefore ask that the public be compassionate to our staff who are doing the very best they can to support the community in extremely challenging circumstances.”

It follows a similar plea from NHS Shetland chairman Gary Robinson, who said health workers are tired after a gruelling last 20 months.

It all comes amid increasing concern over the Omicron variant of Covid, which as of today (Friday) is now the dominant strain in Scotland.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated in a media briefing earlier the importance of getting vaccinated, testing for Covid regularly and reducing social contact either side of Christmas.

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Meanwhile Sandison also gave clarity on additional protective measures in the council’s care homes during the rise of Omicron.

All visitors should undertake a lateral flow test before attending a care home.

Vaccinations and boosters are encouraged and no-one with symptoms should meet with residents in or out of the care home.

In line with government advice the council recommends that there should be no more than two households meeting with a resident at one time inside the care home.

All visitors to care homes should wear a fluid resistant surgical mask.

There are no restrictions placed on frequency of visiting, but this will be dependent on individual care home capacity to support visits.

It comes after NHS Shetland urged anyone visiting the Gilbert Bain Hospital to take a lateral flow test before attending.

Speaking during the briefing on Friday, the first minister said the “tsunami” of Omicron Covid cases she previously warned about is “starting to hit us”.

She stressed the importance of people having a booster Covid vaccine.

“We want as many people as possible to get boosted by the time the bells strike on Hogmanay,” Sturgeon said.

Vaccination clinics are being held at the Gilbertson Park in Lerwick through to 23 December.

People are asked to book an appointment online via https://vacs.nhs.scot/csp but there are also drop-in jabs available.

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