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Coronavirus / Health chief reflects on ‘enormous’ community response to Covid pandemic three years on

IT WAS around three years ago when a huge RAF aircraft touched down at Sumburgh Airport to transfer a Covid patient to Aberdeen.

It was a striking image – but one that happened again a couple of weeks later, as the country began to get used to life under lockdown.

Royal Air Force confirms second Covid-19 related airlift

Speaking this week, NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson took time to reflect on the past three years.

He said in that time the “fundamental change” has been how Covid is now dealt with.

“Covid is a thing we know that happens, it’s a thing that is happening right now,” Dickson said – referring to rises in positive lateral flow tests and symptoms after events like the many Up Helly Aas.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson. Photo: Shetland News

“I don’t think Covid-19 will ever be eradicated,” he added.

But most people are well, Dickson said, and the vulnerable continue to receive vaccinations.

The health chief estimated that NHS Shetland has administered around 100,000 vaccines to date.

Speaking in a Facebook livestream, he said he wanted to recognise the “huge work that’s happened from everyone at NHS Shetland, but also the enormous community response, that was palpable”.

“And that’s what makes Shetland so incredibly special,” he said.

Dickson reflected that in the early days of Covid test samples had to be sent from Shetland to Glasgow.

“From there things expanded and changed at pace,” he said.

The health chief mentioned how the NHS had to reconfigure the Gilbert Bain Hospital and set up a respiratory support unit.

Like most other organisations, NHS Shetland also went virtual with internal meetings held on MS Teams and more video consultations being undertaken through Near Me.

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Dickson also praised the response to the health board’s call for scrubs.

More than 400 items donated to ‘utterly incredible’ scrubs campaign

He also said Shetland as a whole provided isolation support, and offered “really comprehensive” checks on vulnerable people.

Meanwhile NHS Shetland has begun recruiting for a new chief executive after Dickson announced he will be moving on from the role to lead the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The top job comes with a salary range of £88,171-£114,606, as well as relocation expenses of £8,000 and a distant islands allowance of £2,119. The closing date is 17 April.

Dickson said the opportunity to head up the Scottish Ambulance Service was a “fantastic one for a range of reasons”.

He said he will be “genuinely sad” to leave Shetland having moved to the isles in early 2020.

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