Visitors increase spread of Covid in county's hospitals

Emergency departments in Suffolk and north Essex hospitals have reported a rise in patient numbers

Around 90 people are currently in hospital in Suffolk with Covid - Credit: Gregg Brown

Nearly 90 people are currently in hospital in Suffolk suffering from coronavirus - with patients' visitors having contributed to the spread of Covid-19. 

Those in intensive care are mainly people who have not been vaccinated.

Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals have suspended visiting amid high case numbers in the county.

During an emergency meeting of the local outbreak engagement board, it was confirmed that visits in hospitals had contributed to the spread.

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing for Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups, said: “The concern that our acute hospitals have is around the transmission from the community into the hospitals and we are quite certain that, particularly on the Ipswich site, we have had some transmission from visitors into the hospitals.

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing at Suffolk\'s clinical commissioning groups

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing at Suffolk\'s clinical commissioning groups - Credit: IPSWICH & EAST SUFFOLK CCG/WEST SUFFOLK CCG

“We can tell that by the genotyping and the fact that isolated patients who have not had any other visitors apart from their family have developed Covid and we know that there has been no staff to patient transmission.

“We have had to take some emergency steps to make sure we are protecting our patient population.

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“We will review this in two-to-three weeks. Hopefully, as the position in Suffolk improves around the R rates, we will be able to return to a different visiting regime, but at the moment we feel we need to take urgent steps to make sure we protect our patients.”

Latest figures from Tuesday indicated there were 41 Covid-19 patients at Ipswich Hospital including seven in intensive care units, 32 patients at West Suffolk Hospital with three in ICU, and 16 at James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston – which includes north Suffolk patients – of which two were in ICU.

Ms Nobes continued: “The area that is currently concerning us the most is the number of Covid patients we have in our acute hospitals.

“The trends we are seeing is people who remain unvaccinated are tending to be the patients in our intensive care facilities and we have a higher proportion of patients that are vaccinated in our general wards, so it follows the messaging we have previously given that the vaccination protects you from serious illness.

“That puts incredible pressure on our acute sector. We are really trying to ensure that we are responding to the backlog of people we have awaiting elective surgery and treatment, and any additional pressures from Covid is making that job incredibly tricky for us. We have had some cancellations of elective surgery this week, particularly on the Ipswich site.”

Suffolk case rates are currently above both the regional and national average. Figures for Tuesday were at 536.8 per 100,000 in Suffolk compared to the England average of 487.4 and the East of England average of 522.7.

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