Social media is giving folk an opportunity to see inside the Gilbert Bain Hospital and ask questions of NHS Shetland’s chief executive during these turbulent times.
Michael Dickson has been using Facebook Live to make the NHS accessible at a time when people are unable to leave their homes and visiting is heavily restricted.
In his second livestream on the platform on Wednesday evening, Mr Dickson showed folk around the hospital’s respiratory care unit and Ronas Ward, both dedicated to tackling coronavirus.
He also fielded questions online from folk, who could leave their comments and queries in real-time next to the post, and gave an update on the Covid-19 situation.
Showing those watching around the hospital’s currently empty respiratory care unit, Mr Dickson said the reason he was doing so is because it is “really frightening” when people don’t know what’s going on with their relatives.
This gave folk an idea of what it would look like, as Mr Dickson said he could give no assurances on being able to see relatives in the respiratory care unit as they would almost certainly have Covid-19, placing visitors at risk.
Limiting risk was also why visiting hours had been drastically reduced at the hospital and limited to certain people only.
Mr Dickson said a ventilator “isn’t magic” but can help those needing it “breathe a little longer”, adding that it “won’t cure people”. For critically unwell patients, the hospital would seek opportunities to transfer over to intensive care beds.
NHS Shetland currently uses Aberdeen, said Mr Dickson, but they will also be looking for beds across the UK, describing it as a “four nations response” – this included expanding the number of intensive care beds in the UK.
There were a number of bed spaces in the unit, the chief executive pointed out. While they were not currently filled with beds, they would be over the coming days and weeks. It was not a huge respiratory unit “by any stretch”, but that reflected the size of the population.
Capacity wasn’t just about “space or machines”, he said, but the staff “who are able to care for you”.
He stressed that it was not an intensive care department, and that NHS Shetland was not looking at developing an intensive care department in the isles.
Mr Dickson said it was “hugely important that we all take the steps to lockdown our lives”, asking people to ask themselves if they can do something once and not every day, including shopping.
He pointed out that daily exercise was important to keep people healthy, in body and mind.
The chief executive thanked all NHS staff for their response to the virus, including reception workers, domestic staff and cleaners.
The full livestream, which is available to rewatch here, has been viewed thousands of times.
Anyone can watch the livestreams on Mr Dickson’s Facebook profile, and do not need to be a friend to see them.