The trust behind Weston General Hospital is under fire after failing to answer questions about its closure to new patients.
The hospital in Weston-super-Mare confirmed on Monday (May 25) it has “temporarily stopped accepting new patients”, even at its A&E department, due to a “high number of patients with coronavirus”.
A leaked memo from that day reportedly showed 64 inpatients are Covid-19 positive and 40 per cent of staff tested have the virus.
And cases in North Somerset have jumped by 13, to 427, in today’s (May 27) update – continuing a sharp rise throughout this month which dwarfs any increase in surrounding areas.
Bristol Live and other media outlets have unsuccessfully been trying since Monday to arrange an interview with a spokesperson or senior figure at the hospital.
Deputy leader of North Somerset Council, Mike Bell, tweeted today he was “really disappointed” the trust has failed to hold interviews with media on the temporary closure.
He said: “People are entitled to know what is happening and what is being done about it. Not good enough.”
What have we asked?
In recent days Bristol Live has put various questions to the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston trust (UHBW) trust which runs Weston General, including attempts to clarify how many people have died at the hospital.
Here is the full list of questions which remain unanswered:
- How many patients being treated at Weston General have tested positive for Covid-19?
- How many members of staff have tested positive for Covid-19?
- Have all patients who have been admitted in recent weeks been tested for Covid-19, and if so, when did that blanket testing begin?
- What is believed to be the reason for the spike in cases?
- How many patients are believed to have contracted Covid-19 while in the hospital?
- We have received reports from sources at Weston General that all nurses are being swab-tested for coronavirus when they enter the hospital. Can this be confirmed and is this happening with all staff?
The trust issued a press release on Tuesday, revealing there is an “emerging picture” of staff with no symptoms testing positive for the disease.
Sources at Weston General have told Bristol Live most of its Covid-19 patients contracted the virus after entering the hospital.
The trust has failed to confirm whether this is the case.
Why are the figures unclear?
UHBW has confirmed 118 coronavirus deaths across Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) and Weston General, but it is unclear how many happened at each.
There has been a steep rise in deaths at the trust’s hospitals since May 11, at which time 91 people had died.
That figure has gone up by 27 in just over two weeks, reaching 118 deaths according to the latest NHS England update.
For comparison, there have been only five Covid-19 deaths in that time at Southmead Hospital, where the death toll is now 113.
Only three coronavirus deaths are confirmed to have happened at Weston General.
The Weston Area Health NHS trust merged with the University Hospitals Bristol trust on April 1 to form UHBW – and the Weston body’s figure has not been added to since April 3.
We have asked UHBW for clarification on whether deaths are now being recorded under the merged trust name. It has not responded.
The rising figures come after concerns over crowded beaches along the North Somerset coast in recent weeks.
North Somerset has seen a jump in cases this month which is by far the highest in the West of England.
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It had only 234 cases on May 1 – now it has 427, meaning a rise of 193 cases (82 per cent).
Bristol’s figure has risen by just 90 cases, to 698 (a 15 per cent increase), in the same period.
And North Somerset has the highest rate of cases in the West of England, with 200 per 100,000 people, compared to a rate of 151 in Bristol.
What the trust has said
In the press release on Tuesday, the trust’s medical director Dr William Oldfield said: “There are currently a high number of patients with coronavirus in the hospital. We have tested all inpatients and will undertake retesting in line with national guidance, and we have appropriate segregation in place for patient care.
“Testing for symptomatic staff and household contacts has been offered across the Trust since the beginning of April.
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“In addition, there is an emerging picture of asymptomatic staff testing positive for the virus. Any members of staff who have tested positive have self-isolated in line with national guidance. We are also in the process of testing all staff in clinical areas at the hospital who may have had some patient contact.
“Appropriate levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are available and this is being used in line with Public Health England guidance, and there have been significant efforts to minimise unnecessary staff movements across the hospital.”
North Somerset Council has been approached for comment on the recent rise in cases.