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Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham like 'war zone' and placed on highest alert

By Ed McConnell

A hospital has been compared to a "war zone" after being placed on the highest level of alert.

Medway Maritime Hospital in Windmill Road, Gillingham, is currently operating on 'Opel 4', reserved for the most serious situations where bed capacity has been reached and some routine operations have to be cancelled.

Medway NHS Foundation Trust said while the majority of patients in its emergency department had been seen within four hours there were some exceptions where longer waits had been experienced due to specialist beds being needed.

Opel, or Operational Pressures Elevation Levels, range from one, meaning normal, to four.

Level four means the hospital is "unable to deliver comprehensive care" and there's an increased chance of care and safety being compromised.

This time last year the hospital was in an even worse position following a particularly cold winter, with one person reporting waiting in A&E for almost 24 hours.

It was hoped the opening of a brand new multi-million pound emergency department in November where patients can be streamed according to their condition would ease the strain on services.

One woman, who spoke to Kent Online's sister paper the Medway Messenger, said her daughter-in-law had waited for more than 15 hours in the hospital's A&E.

Medway Martime Hospital in Gillingham
Medway Martime Hospital in Gillingham

She described the hospital as like "a war zone" and said she'd previously had to wait eight hours for a prescription surrounded by people vomiting and crying in pain.

Her daughter-in-law is now on a ward.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's unbelievable. The staff were absolutely lovely but the NHS still has a long way to go."

Another said her operation had been cancelled.

The trust denied reports that only one doctor was on duty in its Emergency Department yesterday, saying it was fully staffed.

Health secretary Matt Hancock and hospital chief executive James Devine at the new Emergency Department
Health secretary Matt Hancock and hospital chief executive James Devine at the new Emergency Department

James Devine, chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Winter is the busiest time of year for NHS hospitals across the country, and we are no exception.

"While we are still seeing the majority of emergency department attendees within four hours, the hospital is very busy overall.

"This has meant that, despite our best efforts, some patients who have needed admission onto a ward have experienced longer waits while we have worked to free up a bed for them.

"When the hospital is busy, we implement range of additional actions, aimed at safely discharging patients and freeing up bed capacity.

"This supports flow through the hospital, and ensures we can treat those requiring emergency care quickly.

"I apologise unreservedly to them for any inconvenience that they have experienced, and I can promise that our staff are working very hard every day to get our patients into the right place for their care as soon as possible.

"We are also working with our colleagues in community and social care to help free up our beds by getting those patients that are ready to leave hospital back home with the care packages that they need."

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