Pandemic disease plan implemented as NHS Shetland battles coronavirus outbreak

The Ronas Ward at the Gilbert Bain Hospital is being brought back into clinical use as NHS Shetland has activated its “pandemic disease plan”.

Normal NHS board activities are suspended so that all resources can be focused on dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

More details will be released soon but anything other than “core business” is being cancelled to free up staff. The announcement comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister Boris Johnson both gave press conferences, detailing drastic new measures in a bid to delay the spread of the virus.

Ms Sturgeon warned the UK was on the brink of an escalation in the infection rate as she announced widespread social distancing measures. She also said that whole households must isolate for 14 days if one of them displays symptoms of the disease – a persistent cough, aching muscles and a fever.

As part of NHS Shetland’s response wards at the Gilbert Bain in Lerwick are being reconfigured with the Ronas Ward coming back into operation as a medical ward. It has been in use for clinical training after it was closed as a rehabilitation unit in 2017.

Critical care unit

A critical care unit is also being put in place to cope with patients that might need ventilators.

The pandemic plan sets out NHS Shetland’s response to an “infectious disease outbreak that cannot be dealt with through its normal day to day activities”. It also sets out how the board will work towards getting back to a “steady state when the infection either disappears or does not require special measures”.

Scientific evidence suggests up to eight out of 10 people could contract the coronavirus. Most will have mild, cold-like symptoms but about four per cent of those who contract the Covid-19 strain are expected to need hospital treatment.

It is hoped that the infection rate can be delayed to reduce the peak and the pressure that puts on the NHS.

The health board reiterated that the public can help by following government and public health guidelines, particularly around hand-washing, coughing into a tissue and disposing of it immediately afterwards, and not touching your face.

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