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University College hospital scrambling to convert theatres, recovery areas and stroke wards into ICUs
Thu 31 Dec 2020 19.09 GMT. Last modified on Thu 31 Dec 2020 19.27 GMT
One of London’s biggest hospitals has warned it is on track to become virtually Covid-only amid a surge in cases in the capital that has left it scrambling to convert operating theatres, surgical recovery areas and stroke wards into intensive care units for the very sick.
As the Covid case numbers in the UK continued an apparently inexorable rise, hitting 55,892, with 23,813 in hospitals and 964 reported deaths, the chief executive of University College London Hospitals trust (UCLH), Prof Marcel Levi, said admissions were already spiralling beyond the first wave in the spring.
Every hospital in London was facing the same demands on beds and staff, and University College hospital was taking admissions from other hospitals that were less well able to cope, he told the Guardian.
“This is much more than we had in March and April,” said Levi, an acute medicine doctor. The 500-bed hospital has 220 Covid patients, with the numbers increasing by 5% a day, but the real pressure is on intensive care where there are now 70 very sick patients, as there were in the spring, and rising fast.
“Usually in our ITU we have about 35 patients so we are already doubled in size at UCLH. We are further surging upon the request of London to 92 patients in the next week, and thereafter probably we will have to grow even further,” he said.
At the hospital, whole floors are having to be dismantled and rebuilt to the standards required for intensive care wards. As they did in March, they have had to convert five floors and equip them with oxygen and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines that help people breathe.
Just under half of all major hospital trusts in England – 64 out of 140 – have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus. This includes 11 of the 14 acute trusts in eastern England and 12 of the 19 acute trusts in south-east England. The NHS said on Thursday it was making sure the Nightingale hospitals were “reactivated and ready to admit patients”.
Levi paid tribute to his “amazing” staff, who volunteered to give up their leave over Christmas and the new year to help save lives. But they are severely stretched: intensive care nurses normally work with one patient; now they may have four or five under their care.
But there are also tears of frustration that people are still taking risks with the virus. “It’s not about us not stepping up and doing our job. We’ve all sacrificed Christmas and New Year but it’s not about that. We’re here for the patients. But it’s in the hands of the public to stop this, and it’s not listening and tonight [New Year’s Eve] is obviously going to make things even worse,” she [Elaine Thorpe, a critical care matron at the hospital] said.
She has seen high-profile people on Twitter claiming that hospitals and intensive care units are empty. “I just don’t understand and my team don’t understand it, and that’s the really hard thing,” she said.
We were almost there, she said, with vaccines on the way. If people had given up Christmas and new year, it could have been different, she said, but now “this is going to be weeks. None of us can see this stopping any time soon.”
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31 Dec, 2020 01:53 pm
some people here have trouble accepting some truth.