NHS Shetland is remaining on high alert for any new coronavirus cases, despite the number of confirmed patients suffering from Covid-19 remaining at two.
Latest figures released by the Scottish government show no new cases in the isles recorded on Wednesday, but the health authority is ramping up for the significant challenge of dealing with more patients.
NHS Shetland’s interim medical director Brian Chittick insisted the number may well increase, and has advised people to continue to abide by guidelines around hand-washing and cleanliness.
Speaking at a press conference Mr Chittick said: “Scottish government figures indicate that we have not had an increase of confirmed cases of Covid-19.
“However, we are awaiting further testing – so the message is the same as yesterday, the number may increase.
“We’ll be able to confirm that again at 2.00 tomorrow when the figures are released by the Scottish government.”
He added the message remained the same “but we can never say it enough”.
“Everything is being done to contain the spread of the virus at the minute and everybody has a role to play in that. That includes really good hand hygiene, avoiding touching mouths, eyes, noses with hands, washing our hands regularly.”
The board’s depute chief executive Simon Bokor-Ingram said a growing number of people concerned about the virus had been phoning the Lerwick Health Centre, instead of turning up at the door in person.
“It is really helpful, and we are very grateful that people are heeding the advice that is out there, and they are choosing to telephone in.
“In most cases they are able to get advice and potentially treatment without having to come into the practice.
“We’ve managed to close out an awful lot of consultations through the telephone.”
But he scotched claims a telephone triage system had been introduced at the health centre – despite patients having received a text message on Wednesday morning telling them such a system was in place.
“This is effectively the public in Lerwick that have made that decision themselves,” he added.
“On Tuesday we saw a significant surge in people who wanted to phone in and have a telephone consultation.”
The text issued by the NHS stated: “Due to the current coronavirus situation Lerwick Practice is operating a phone triage service and asking patients to avoid coming in to the practice unless absolutely necessary.”
Mr Chittick said the situation surrounding the outbreak was “complex”. But he said the island health authority had benefited from weeks of planning, as well as the partnership it has with sister health boards – in particular NHS Grampian – and other agencies such as the Scottish Ambulance Service and Health Protection Scotland.
“That network has come to fruition. On a local basis, certainly we don’t underestimate the challenge that could lie ahead.
“That’s why for the last four weeks a lot of planning has gone on behind the scenes to ensure we have the right resources and the right procedures to help the population if they need to access health care.”
It came a day after a “pod” was brought into operation at the Gilbert Bain Hospital car park.
Mr Chittick said: “I think at the minute we are still in the planning stage. We have had two cases and everything that we planned for to identify, diagnose and treat those individuals has come to fruition and run smoothly.
“Really a lot of the planning has come to fruition, but I think the challenge that could lie ahead is not a challenge we face alone.
“All the health boards in Scotland are facing a similar challenge. It’s a moving target. We’re meeting on a regular basis just to keep that planning going.”