HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY Health Board is appealing for public support as its hospitals are operating under extreme pressure. Whilst high levels of activity are usual in the winter, this year presents the extra challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of clinical staff.
The health board has responded to outbreaks of the virus in all of its acute general hospitals, resulting in closures of some wards in all acute hospitals in the Hywel Dda area during the past month.
Meanwhile, the health board has announced the transfer of all patients being treated at Llandovery Community Hospital, to Amman Valley Hospital, in Glanamman, near Ammanford, due to a number of staff, including nurses, at the two hospitals self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. This led to significant constraints on the workforce at both sites, which meant sustaining both community nursing and community hospital services became too challenging.
Community transmission of the virus is also very high across all three counties. In the last seven days, the case incidence rate in Carmarthenshire was 305.7 per 100,000 population, with a rate of 165.1 per 100,000 in Ceredigion and 170.1 per 100,000 in Pembrokeshire.
Because of these challenges, the health board is in a very difficult position as it cannot safely staff all of beds it would otherwise expect to have open at this point in the year. Additionally, it has had to transfer some staff and patients to field hospitals in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.
The health board is therefore in need the public’s help to ease pressure on the system.
- For urgent and emergency care only, call 999 – hospitals are continuing to see patients who have medical emergencies, as well as those on cancer pathways who have been asked to attend. There are measures in our hospitals designed to keep patients as safe as possible and people are urged to seek urgent medical attention if they need it.
- If you have a non-urgent need, please seek alternatives to A&E such as calling 111, visiting your local community pharmacy or calling your doctor’s surgery.
- Families with relatives in hospital who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are medically fit for discharge can play a crucial role in helping us by supporting discharge from hospital to home – please call the ward sister to discuss individual needs.
- Protect the NHS – and help save lives. Following the government guidance and Keep Wales Safe by staying out of each other’s homes, except in very limited circumstances; limiting how many people you meet; maintaining social distancing; washing your hands regularly, and working from home if you can. Also, if you have symptoms, please stay at home, book a test and only leave home to get your test. For more information please visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Topic | GOV.WALES
Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “A number of vaccines are being developed and yesterday’s news about the approval of one of these is a hugely welcome and positive development. But, it is critical for the public to understand that we are still at a very dangerous point in the cycle of the pandemic and there is still some way to go before we can return to normality.
“We are dealing with significantly more cases of COVID-19 in our hospitals than we previously had in the spring. Unfortunately, this has also affected our workforce and severely hampered our capacity and escalation plans.
“While we are confident that the number of declared hospital outbreaks is now going down, and that we are able to deep clean and re-open wards safely again, the single biggest issue we face remains staff sickness. This is having a critical effect on our ability to provide care for all but those with emergency / urgent medical conditions, or those who are accessing cancer services. We need to ensure that the services we provide are safe and prioritised in terms of clinical need, so that staff are operating safely.
“I want to be very clear that we will get through this, but we need the public’s help now to stop onward transmission of the virus in our communities and give our workforce a chance to recover, so that they are able to provide safe and effective care for our patients.”
Coronavirus self-isolation and quarantine reduced to 10 days
THE time people have to self-isolate for coronavirus will be reduced from 14 days to 10.
Welsh Government have reduced the isolation period to 10 days from Thursday, 10 December. The decision is endorsed by The Chief Medical Officer for Wales Officer, Dr Frank Atherton and is based on the current available evidence around likelihood of being infectious as a contact after 10 days.
The new self-isolation and quarantine rules will apply to:
- people who have received a positive test result for COVID-19
- people with symptoms of COVID-19 who are waiting for a test result, or who have not been tested and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home for the appropriate self-isolation period
- people living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 or who has received a positive test result for COVID-19
- close contacts of positive cases of COVID-19
- travellers returning from non-exempt country
Following this advice the Minister for Health and Social Services has approved the amendment to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 4) (Wales) Regulations 2020.
An updated list of exempt countries and territories can be seen on the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/exemptions-self-isolation-coronavirus-covid-19-html#section-48360
Self-isolation and quarantine play a key role in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Remember, self-isolate as soon as you have any symptoms. Symptoms of coronavirus include a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste. But be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with flu. We are urging people who feel unwell to be extra cautious, especially to practice hand hygiene and distancing, and if in doubt, book a test.
You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.
Further information around the Coronavirus in Ceredigion can be seen on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Thank you for following the rules and playing your role. Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.
Vaccine plan unveiled for Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire
HYWEL DDA University Health Board is making final preparations to deliver its mass vaccination programme following Wednesday’s announcement that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been granted temporary authorisation for use.
There will only be small quantities of a vaccine at first due to the storage requirements of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
A Hywel Dda spokesperson said: “Priority groups for the initial supplies of this vaccine include front line health and social care staff with direct patient and client contact across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. We are continually reviewing our plans based on receipt of further supplies.
“We are ready to deploy the vaccine in phases when the vaccine arrives. Eligible front line health and social care staff will receive details of how they will receive the vaccination as soon as possible.
“Members of the public are asked to not contact their GP practice or community pharmacies to enquire about the vaccine at this time.”
Ros Jervis, director of public health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Vaccination saves lives and Wednesday’s announcement is a truly significant moment.
“I’d like to personally thank everyone from organisations from across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire who, for the past few months, have worked tirelessly together to ensure we are ready to deliver this vaccine to protect our frontline staff and the clinically vulnerable in our community.
“Please do not contact your GP or pharmacist to apply for or ask for the vaccination. As soon as the vaccine is available for your eligible group, you will be informed and asked to make an appointment.”
In readiness, Hywel Dda UHB has established two vaccination centres for delivery of early supplies, one in Carmarthenshire and one in Ceredigion. Attendance at these centres is strictly prohibited without an appointment.
Wales Air Ambulance gets night-flying funding boost
WALES AIR AMBULANCE (WAA) has received a funding boost for night flying operations following a grant from the Postcode Community Trust.
The helicopter charity was recently awarded £15,300 to aid the purchase of specialist night-flying equipment for use by the onboard medical team, known as the Welsh Flying Medics, and the pilots.
The grant came after a successful application to the Postcode Community Trust which is directly supported by the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Mark Stevens, WAA Fundraising Manager, said: “We would like to say a huge thank you not only to the Postcode Community Trust for this grant but also the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. This extremely generous award will allow us to purchase night vision equipment which will prove invaluable during the darker evenings.”
Dr David Rawlinson, Welsh Flying Medics Clinical Informatics Manager, said: “This funding is vital to support our work, particularly during the winter months where it will allow crews to respond by air from sunset until we finish at 8pm. The provision of night vision goggles and specialist helmets will also support the Charity’s long-term vision of providing a 24/7 service.”
WAA is the national air ambulance service for Wales providing emergency medical assistance by air to whoever may need it, 365 days a year. Operating daily between 8am-8pm, WAA is the UK’s largest air ambulance operational with four helicopters based across the country. On average, the Charity attends 2,500 missions each year and needs to raise £6.5 million annually to keep the helicopters flying.
Wales Air Ambulance can be there for anyone in Wales within 20 minutes, with bases in Llanelli, Cardiff, Welshpool and Caernarfon. The ‘Welsh Flying Medics’ on-board Wales Air Ambulance use pioneering techniques and advanced equipment – bringing the A&E directly to the patient wherever they may be.
Mark added: “It is part of our long-term vision to provide a 24-hour service. It is only through projects such as the Postcode Community Trust and the generosity of the people of Wales that we are able to edge closer to this goal.”
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