Norovirus putting hospitals under 'extreme pressure'

By Ian Dipple Wednesday 09 January 2013 Updated: 10/01 15:55

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ROUTINE operations have been temporarily suspended at all of the county's hospitals as the norovirus continues to put the system under 'extreme pressure'.

In the last two months about 400 planned operations have had to be cancelled as bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust have had to close beds to try and control the outbreak of the winter vomiting and diarrhoea bug.

As a result no routine operations have been scheduled during the first two weeks of January to limit the impact of the outbreak on patients and keep cancellations to a minimum.

A total of 120 beds were closed during December and visiting restrictions remain in place at all three hospitals. People should only visit if it is essential and even then it should be restricted to immediate family members only and just two per patient at any one time.

Trust bosses have imposed a voluntary ban on visitors under the age of 16 in order to prevent the bug from spreading from schools, nurseries and playgroups. Anyone unsure should directly contact the ward for advice.

Outpatients appointments are running as normal.

Although the majority of visitors are abiding by the restrictions, there are still people bringing the bug into hospital by not staying away for at least 48 hours after vomiting and/or diarrhoea has stopped, to allow the infection to clear.

Stewart Messer, the Trust's chief operating officer, said the situation was changing but significant progress was being made to bring it under control.

"All acute hospitals are currently under extreme pressure which is usual for this time of year due to the seasonal effect of winter. The severity of illness is heightened at this time of year with more frail and elderly patients presenting with respiratory symptoms, chest pain and strokes," he said.

"Every attempt is being made to maintain A&E waiting times in the light of these pressures. The safety of our patients and quality of care remains our first priority."

Norovirus has hit earlier than usual this year and across the country the number of cases is 72 per cent higher than the same time last year. Outbreaks are likely to continue until March when the bug is traditionally most active.

There is no specific treatment for the highly infectious illness apart from letting it run its course. Advice includes drinking plenty of fluid, washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet, avoiding food preparation until 48 hours after symptoms have subsided, not sharing towels and flannels and disinfecting surfaces.

Anyone concerned should call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice.

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