Coronavirus: How is Barking, Havering, Redbridge University Hospitals Trust responding?

BHRUT's coronavirus pod outside Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford. Picture: Adriana Elguet

BHRUT's coronavirus pod outside Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford. Picture: Adriana Elgueta - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

The Recorder spoke to the chief medical officer of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT), Madga Smith, on the trust’s response and how the hospital is managing the pandemic.

“As a large health care organisation we are responding to advice from chief scientific officer regular calls,” she explained over the phone, “as well ensuring that we are updated with the latest guidance about what we are supposed to be doing.

“We’re focused on making sure that the patients that are coming into our hospitals are cared for appropriately, and that we’re protecting our staff who like any other member of the public are anxious.

“Our messaging is hand hygiene, staff who are looking after patients who may have Covid-19 are wearing the appropriate personal protection and we’re using the national definition to determine whether they may be infected, basically people who have respiratory illnesses or flu-like symptoms.

How are staff holding up?

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“Staff are anxious but we’re doing a lot of team briefings and the executives are doing a lot of walkabouts, because people have questions and queries.

“I’ve been absolutely amazed about how our staff have responded even in a period of anxiety, they are putting the patients first, stepping up to the mark and being incredibly professional and supporting each other. The innovation coming from our staff has been amazing.”

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What’s the situation with resources?

“Hazmats are not required, according to government guidance. It depends on what you’re doing but aprons, gowns and masks - we have all of those and that supply is fine. We’re constantly reviewing where staff are concerned to keep supplies topped up.

“In terms of ventilators, there was a national call, where it was looked at how we could double our capacity for patients on ventilators. We have plans in place for that.

“Our Critical Care Team have really stepped up to the mark, we have a plan in place to increase our ventilator capacity as needed and we’ve had calls with NHS London to increase this even further.

“For the actual ventilators, we’ve got capacity to double our ventilator support. There is a national sourcing of ventilators, so when we need further supply of that, it will be made available to us nationally.

“Obviously, having a patient on a ventilator, it’s not just a question of having a machine, we have to have staff and other equipment. The critical care director, the chief nurse and I are working through the staffing plan in order to ensure that these patients are cared for appropriately.

“Again, working with national guidelines, we’re training up other teams that wouldn’t normally work in critical care. We have been asked to discharge as many people as possible for bed availability and postponing surgeries, by looking at what can safely be delayed, for those who need surgery now, we’re continuing to provide those services.”

How are Covid-19 patients kept away from regular patients?

“We have different pathways for people coming into hospital. One for those with respiratory illnesses and one for those without, so from arrival, from when the ambulances are bringing people in, they are kept separated.

“At that point we wouldn’t know who’s Covid-19 positive, or not. We have created wards where people with respiratory illnesses are being admitted to, and those who don’t meet that criteria are bypassing and going to other areas.”

How busy are the Covid-19 wards?

“We are filling up those wards with respiratory patients, we are seeing a rise in those admitted but not a significant rise, we’re probably on a curve that’s just starting to go upwards.

“We are making sure that those with the most specialist knowledge are being diverted to those areas.

“It’s an emerging situation, we’re working with what we’ve got, and there are entire national teams who are working on the what the right thing to do is and when to do it,

“We’d like to reassure people that we are planning, preparing, we are doing, our absolute focus is keeping people safe.”

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