Published: 15:41, 11 November 2020
| Updated: 15:43, 11 November 2020
Health chiefs insist there is enough capacity despite the number of hospitalised Covid patients nearing the peak of the first wave.
More than 100 intensive care beds are available across Kent and Medway for the most seriously ill patients but numbers are lower now than they were in April.
Admissions at Medway Maritime Hospital, Gillingham, almost doubled this week rising to 95 confirmed patients as of Tuesday morning.
Nine of those were seriously ill in critical care.
On November 3, there were 52 people in the hospital with the virus – meaning there has been an 82.7% increase of 43 patients in the past week.
The current 95 patients is still short of the first wave peak of 136 patients on April 10.
But the number of people falling seriously ill from the virus this time is much lower than it was compared to March and April.
On April 7, Medway NHS Foundation Trust had 27 patients on a mechanical ventilator (MV) bed in critical care.
NHS figures do not specify if there was a ventilator connected to the MV bed occupied by a patient but note these beds are “capable of supporting mechanical ventilation”
About 20 patients per day remained on an MV bed throughout the rest of the month dropping to single figures again for the first time on May 4.
Sadly, 215 deaths at the hospital trust have now been confirmed with 11 since November 3.
But rising case rates will continue to cause major concern for hospital bosses.
Wilf Williams, who is in charge of the NHS response to coronavirus in Kent and Medway, said: “At this point we’re in a relatively good position in Kent and Medway, but the number of hospital admissions for Covid patients has increased and we expect that to continue in the weeks ahead.
“We certainly can’t be complacent and we would urge the public to play their part.
"We need infection rates in the community to decrease..."
“We need infection rates in the community to decrease, as we know that hospital admissions follow a trend that is a few weeks behind infection rates in the wider community.
“In mid-April, we had to rapidly convert other space such as theatres and recovery areas, which meant other treatments had to be stopped, but we are doing everything we can to avoid that happening again.
“Our aim is very much to keep treatment going for both Covid and non-Covid patients.
“We now have a better understanding of Covid-19 so can treat the virus more effectively with more appropriate drugs.
“We therefore do not expect as many patients will need to be put on ventilators this time around.”
The NHS is determined to make sure regular services continue.
Almost 300,000 outpatient appointments, 30,000 day case and elective treatments and 86,500 scans were run throughout Kent and Medway during September and October.
Hospital bosses have reassured patients there are systems to isolate coronavirus and ensure routine treatments can continue.
At Medway, this includes temperature checks on arrival, mandatory face coverings for all visitors, staff, outpatients and inpatients, hand sanitising stations and special “green zones” which allows patients to be pre-screened before entering for their surgical procedure and restrictions in the use of waiting areas to allow social distancing.
Visiting wards has been banned across the hospital site with only exceptional circumstances allowing anyone not attending an appointment to enter the building.
Chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust James Devine said: “Like other hospitals in the region, we are caring for an increased numbers of patients with COVID-19, as cases in the community continue to rise.
"Our absolute priority continues to be the safety of patients and staff, and to ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed in the coming months.
"We have made robust preparations to be able to manage winter pressures alongside any surge in the number of patients admitted with Covid-19, and we continue to work closely with all our partners across the health and social care system to ensure we have capacity to deal with peak levels of demand.
"It’s extremely important that cases in the community decrease, as we know that hospital admissions tend to be some weeks behind the rate of infection in the community.
"Our community can help us by following national guidance, wearing a face covering in enclosed public spaces, social distancing and regular hand washing."
Mr Devine assured residents the hospital is doing everything it can to ensure regular services continue and said patients should attend hospital for procedures or appointments "as normal".
He added: “If you or a loved one have an appointment for a diagnostic test, operation or other surgical procedure, you can be assured that there are a lot of measures in place to keep you safe when you come to the hospital.
“Please do follow the rules and stay at home unless it’s for a specific purpose as laid out by government, do not meet up with people outside your household or support bubble and practise social distancing.”
He also reminded people to have a flu shot if they can.
Meanwhile, extensive preparations continue through community and primary care systems and GPs. Some 5,000 pulse oximeters – which monitor falling blood oxygen levels, known as silent hypoxia – are being prepared to be sent to care homes and individuals receiving care in their own homes.
Cases have continued to rise throughout Medway with 492 cases from November 1 to November 7.
This was exactly 100 more than the previous seven days – putting the infection rate at 169.4 per 100,000 people on November 4, the eve of the second national lockdown.
It has increased rapidly since October 1 when the rate was 20.1 and doubling since October 24.
Medway Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett reflected on “a daunting time for us all” with the latest restrictions imposed for lockdown.
He added: “It remains extremely important everyone plays their part to help stop the spread of this deadly virus – follow the new national restrictions and reduce your day-to-day contact with other people by staying at home unless there is a good reason for going out.”
The leader stressed the message was that “no one is alone” in Medway and council officers and support was available in the community.
“Whether that be a friendly voice to speak to, help getting food items for those with no one else to turn to, or financial support through government grants,” he said.
“We will do everything we can to support our residents, but also to provide Medway businesses with the help they may need during these challenging times.
“The tighter restrictions will be disappointing for many businesses which have had to close their doors to customers once again.
“I am, however, pleased that many businesses are able to offer a click and collect service in line with government guidelines and I’d encourage residents to continue shopping local to support them.
“I am incredibly proud of how well Medway as a community has come together during this time.
“Thanks to our public sector colleagues, local healthcare workers, volunteers and of course neighbours, friends and family for looking out for one another and helping to keep Medway residents safe.”