Wigan's hospital bosses have learned lessons as they prepare for second wave of coronavirus pandemic
More patients are being admitted to Wigan’s hospitals with coronavirus as staff steel themselves for a second wave of the pandemic.
The number of people needing treatment for the illness is rising both in the borough and nationwide, raising concerns for the months ahead.
But Dr Sanjay Arya, medical director at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said lessons had been learned from earlier in the year.
He is feeling “cautious but prepared” for a second wave, alongside the traditionally busy winter months.
Dr Arya said: “Since the beginning of September we have started seeing patients being admitted with Covid. Initially, for the first couple of weeks in September, there was a trickle, there were one or two every other day, but over the last two weeks or so the numbers have started going up.”
On Friday, there were 26 patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, five of whom were on the intensive care unit.
Earlier this year, most of the patients going to hospital with coronavirus were elderly and had other health conditions.
This time, it was initially younger people, in their teens, 20s and 30s, but more older patients are now being treated.
It is hoped the lessons learned earlier this year will help both staff and patients this time.
The trust, which runs Wigan and Leigh infirmaries and Wrightington Hospital, had a “very difficult time” from mid-March to May, as it treated people with coronavirus, Dr Arya said.
Dr Arya admitted staff morale had been low due to the number of deaths in the pandemic, but it started to improve and workers were encouraged to take leave so they could recharge ahead of a second wave.
Bosses also looked at what had happened during those months and whether there was anything that could be learned.
He said: “We really looked after the well-being of our staff through various initiatives within our organisation and we made sure that whatever learnings were there from the first pandemic, we started collating notes, because in the rush to look after the huge number of Covid patients the NHS was going to face, we had to make a lot of judgements and decisions in a very short period of time.”
Among the issues they considered were ensuring there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and that staff had adequate IT facilities to work from home where possible.
Different treatments are now being used for coronavirus patients, including new drugs and different ventilation, following research by the trust.
Arrangements have been made to test both staff and their family members for coronavirus, so workers can return to looking after patients as soon as possible.
Dr Arya said: “My biggest worry going forward is if we don’t do this, many of our staff who are wanting to come to work will be forced to isolate themselves at home because of the Government’s directive.”
It is hoped retired staff will return to the frontline to help care for patients, as they did during the first wave of the pandemic.
Another of the things considered was planned surgery, also known as elective surgery, which stopped earlier in the year so staff could focus on patients with coronavirus.
It has since resumed but, as with other NHS organisations around the country, there is a backlog of patients.
Dr Arya said: “We have learned we need to continue with some elective work, which is important for patient care, and obviously those patients who have been waiting for a long, long time, we don’t make them waiting again. We have been targeting patients with cancer, we have been targeting patients who are long waiters. We are trying to clear that list of patients and we will continue to do that until the time when the hospital becomes very busy again with Covid patients.”
Dr Arya praised the efforts of Wigan residents to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, highlighting the lower number of cases in the borough compared to elsewhere in Greater Manchester.
“That is only because our residents have been following the advice that has been given to us of social distancing, wearing masks, not going out unnecessarily, avoiding overcrowding,” he said.
“Our residents have been very responsible and it’s only because of them that the number of Covid patients in Wigan hospital is not as high as in other areas of Greater Manchester and the country.”
While the number of coronavirus cases is rising, Dr Arya implored patients who need urgent treatment to still go to A&E.
He said: “My plea to them is that last time, and even more this time, we have prepared ourselves very well to provide a safe and secure environment for patients who are coming in because of life-threatening illnesses not related to Covid.
“But at the same time, I would say to the residents of Wigan borough not to come to hospital if you don’t need to.”
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