Published: 20:08, 04 August 2020
| Updated: 21:34, 04 August 2020
Health chiefs have been accused of "gross mismanagement" over the handling of Covid-19 in east Kent's hospitals - leading to calls for the government to intervene.
Campaigners from Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) say a string of recent issues, such as previous weekly coronavirus death figures amounting to 25% of all those recorded in England and patients fatally contracting the disease while in hospital, prove the immense need for change at the top of the tree.
East Kent Hospitals Trust has come under fire following the cases of Gwenneth Bowyer, 89 and Dick Lukehurst, 91, while figures show 58% of the trust’s coronavirus patients “probably” or “definitely” caught the virus in hospital - compared to a national average of 22%.
Dr Coral Jones, a member of the campaign group, says people "cannot trust" the decisions made by the senior management.
“This is only the latest in a long history of worrying problems with the trust," she said.
"It has a history of mismanagement going back a number of years — and we must do something about it as matter of urgency.
"If people are actually catching the virus by going into our hospitals, then this is a disgrace. This is literally a matter of life and death.
“Something must be done about the gross mismanagement of trust. The government must act.”
In a bid to reduce the transmission risk across hospitals sites in Ashford, Margate, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone, the trust tested all 9,000 of its workforce in a five-day blitz, from which 15 tested positive for the virus.
Dr Jones, who says that action came "far, far too late", added: “Death rates in the hospitals of east Kent have been going up while in the rest of the country hospitals have seen death rates falling rapidly. Infection rates in the community outside the hospitals are not especially high, so it has to be down to what’s going on in the hospitals — and that must come down to management.
“I believe most staff in the trust are working their hearts out for their patients, things, they are being let down by gross mismanagement at the highest levels.
“What’s most worrying is that there seems to be a culture of denial in the trust. They think they’re doing OK.
"But if they do not see things are going wrong they won’t learn lessons for the future and this can only lead to disaster when we get to the winter when its likely we will face both major flu and coronavirus outbreaks at the same time."
The trust did not respond to questions asking if there is a gross mismanagement problem, but did bat away claims it has an exceptionally high virus death rate.
The trust covers 1.3% of the country's population, and it stresses that 1.5% of the nation's deaths have come from the area.
A spokesman said: “Our staff are dedicated to caring for all our patients and our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this pandemic.
“We continue to follow all national guidelines on restrictions in our hospitals to help keep people safe, and are working with Public Health England and other partners to fully understand the recent number of deaths.
'What’s most worrying is that there seems to be a culture of denial in the trust...'
“Since the start of the pandemic, East Kent has accounted for 1.5% of the overall COVID-19 deaths in the country, which is in the expected range when risk adjusted for age, sex, comorbidities and deprivation.
“We remain focused on providing the best possible care for all our patients in an environment which keeps everyone safe.”