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Chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospital reveals plans for a ten-fold increase in intensive care beds

Twenty one patients are currently being treated for the disease at the hospital. Credit: Kate Shields

The chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospital has revealed plans for a ten-fold increase in the number of intensive care beds in the county.

Currently the hospital has 15 intensive care beds, although that could increase to 146 as the number of coronavirus cases spirals.

To date 15 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 at the Treliske hospital.

Twenty one patients are currently being treated for the disease at the hospital.

Chief Executive Kate Shields says that between the trust’s sites at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance, St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle, along with community hospital beds, there should be enough capacity in Cornwall to cope with an influx of Covid-19 patients.

Normal capacity in Cornwall is for 15 intensive care beds, we’re going to go up to 68 intensive care beds in our first phase and if we need to we’ll be able to go up to 146 intensive care beds spread out across the top of the hospital.

We’re planning for a total surge capacity at any one time of needing to treat around 400 people on oxygen therapy and around 60 people on non-invasive ventilation.

Now obviously some of the oxygen therapy will take place in the community hospitals so we’ve got 250 beds in the community hospitals that could be used. So, when you add all of that together we’ve got sufficient capacity.

– Kate Shields, CEO at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust

The chief executive said fewer people were presenting with symptoms of Covid-19 at the hospital compared to other parts of the UK, whilst adding:

We know that primary care in Cornwall are seeing a lot of people with a raised temperature and a sore throat and a persistent, new cough, so we know people are experiencing the symptoms in Cornwall.

The fact that we're not seeing the poorly people I think is testament to people looking after themselves.

– Kate Shields, CEO at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust
To date 15 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 at the Treliske hospital.

We’ve got awesome people working really hard to plan for the busiest times and we’re hoping we’ll have the quietest times, because we’ve got a lull now between the planning and us hopefully not becoming too busy but the hospital is empty at the moment.

I think we’ve got people starting to worry about what it might be like.

We’ve got the national news about London, Manchester and Birmingham we’ve got the news from Italy and it’s hard I think for staff to hold their place, not really knowing what’s coming, we’re offering lots of support.

– Kate Shields, CEO at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust
Fewer people are presenting with symptoms in Cornwall, compared to the rest of the UK

At present approximately 12 percent of NHS staff across the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust sites are self-isolating because they or members of their families have Covid-19 symptoms.

We don’t know how many have tested positive for Covid-19, I know we have a number of staff members off, self-isolated at the moment because either they or their family members have symptoms.

We haven’t been testing NHS staff until the start of this week.

I think we have 700 people absent from our hospitals at the moment either being poorly or self-isolating but remember we aren’t as busy as we normally are so we’ve got 370 empty beds on the Treliske site, 30 at West Cornwall Hospital.

So it would become more of an issue for us when we start getting busier, for now if people are self-isolating because they or their family members have symptoms that’s only for 14 days, so people will be returning to us, so it feels ok at the moment.

– Kate Shields, CEO at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust
Around 12 per cent of staff at the Royal Cornwall Hospital are unwell or self-isolating at the moment

Visitors to all hospitals in Cornwall are now heavily restricted to help slow the spread of coronavirus, Kate says this was a tough call, especially for families of patients with the virus.

The first thing is our hearts go out to you, we’ve all had family members that have been in hospital and that distancing from people when they are poorly is awful.

We’re looking at ways that families can keep in contact through iPads on the wards, Facetime and making sure they can have telephone conversations with their folk.

It’s just the understanding really, this virus spreads so quickly we need to limit it and where we have people that have a positive diagnosis we just need to reduce the footfall and only staff wearing protective clothing should be going onto those wards at this point.

So, I’m really sorry, it’s not what we’d want, but we’d just ask you to work with us please.

– Kate Shields, CEO at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust