Urgent call for testing improvements after virus outbreak at Weston hospital

Unison is calling for urgent improvements to testing following the coronavirus outbreak.

Unison is calling for urgent improvements to testing following the coronavirus outbreak. - Credit: Archant

Urgent improvements to testing and communication are needed at Weston General Hospital following the coronavirus outbreak, says Unison.

The workers’ union says health managers much take immediate action to sort out communication issues which left staff in the dark about the Covid-19 crisis in the hospital.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), which runs the hospital, closed the building to new patients on Monday after a high number of staff and patients tested positive for the virus – however a number of staff learned of the news through social media.

More: Coronavirus outbreak sees Weston General Hospital close to new patients.

Staff also said they are not being informed when colleagues test positive for the virus and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are not being prioritised for testing, despite being more likely to die from the disease.

Unison South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said: “Urgent changes are needed to reassure both staff and patients about safety.

“The biggest concern is that staff aren’t routinely being informed when their colleagues test positive for the virus.

“This means they’re unable to make informed decisions about whether they need to be tested. The trust must make sure managers tell staff at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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A number of staff who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic and the hospital is now testing all patients, employees and visitors to find out whether the outbreak came from inside the hospital or was brought in from the community.

Joanne added: “Many of those who work at the hospital only heard about the temporary closure through social media, which is a major communications failure. They must be told directly, not pick things up second hand through friends and family.

“Unison is also concerned to hear that black members of staff aren’t being prioritised for testing. Given the higher rate of mortality for this group, the trust must rectify this urgently.”

More: Track and trace programme rolled out in Weston to determine cause of hospital outbreak.

The hospital is expected to be closed for a week, to enable bosses to undertake a deep clean and reconfigure the building to make it safe for staff and patients.

Speaking to BBC Points West, UHBW chief executive Robert Woolley said: “We are segregating patients into those confirmed positive, those confirmed negative, and this batch in the middle where they might have symptoms and are shown not to have Covid-19, or they have no symptoms at all but when tested are infectious.

“We are only putting four patients into a six-bedded bay if that’s where those patients need to be cohorted.

“We are re-testing all inpatients and testing all staff on site. By the end of the week I should have the results that tell me what we’re dealing with, in terms of the scale of infection inside the hospital.

“The question here is have we had patients bringing the infection into hospital when they have arrived and staff getting infected that way?

“Or are staff coming in from the community infected? We don’t know. It’s very complex. We will need help from other agencies.”

Mr Woolley said the hospital is about 60 per cent full but expected the number of patients to reduce ‘drastically’ over the next few days.

Patients will need to have two negative Covid-19 tests before they are discharged, and if they are going into care homes, they will be given a week’s worth of PPE as well.

You can watch the interview with Robert Woolley above, courtesy of BBC Points West.