Staff sickness due to Covid more than doubles at Queen Alexandra Hospital

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STAFF sickness levels due to Covid have more than doubled in just over a week at Queen Alexandra Hospital, but health bosses have not declared a critical incident.

On January 5, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) confirmed 345 workers were off that day due to Covid - either with the virus or in self isolation.

This is a significant increase compared to December 27 when 145 employees were off for Covid related reasons. Numbers rose every day after then with 157 and 274 people off sick on December 28 and 29 respectively, as an example.

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Factoring in non-Covid related reasons, 556 staff members were off on January 5 - or 6.7 per cent of the workforce.

Nicole Cornelius, chief people officer at PHU, said: ‘Health services across Hampshire and Isle of Wight remain busy and as an organisation we have seen high levels of staff absence, some of which are due to Covid and self-isolation.

‘We are monitoring the situation within the hospital on a daily basis and colleagues are supporting by working in different areas of the hospital.

‘We continue working closely with local and regional partners and would like to recognise the dedication of our colleagues in ensuring we are able to continue caring for our sickest patients whilst following infection prevention and control measures.’

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It comes as multiple hospital trusts nationwide, including Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and Great Western Hospitals, declared critical incidents in the first week of January due to staff sickness levels.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: ‘Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them. In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to Covid.

‘While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have, it's clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard working staff.

‘You can help us to help you by ensuring you are vaccinated against Covid.

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‘And as has been the case throughout the pandemic, if you have a health problem, please go to 111 online and call 999 when it is a life threatening condition – the NHS is here for you.’

As reported, the Fire Brigades Union said Gosport Fire Station had to see drafted-in cover from another station on December 28 after being decimated by Covid absences – however Hampshire Fire and Rescue disputed this claim and said that absences were not due to Covid.

Hampshire police told The News the number of staff absent due to Covid is being ‘carefully watched’ as it has grown. Chief Inspector Sharon Woolrich added: ‘But it is not impacting our ability to deliver for the public at this stage.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, commented: ‘We are coping at the moment, we have got people who have to self-isolate or who have tested positive but so far we have been able to rejig hours to manage. All of our bin crews went out this morning.

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‘It’s the same in social care in terms of the impact at the moment but there’s no doubt it’s an issue and with cases hitting record levels it’s likely to get worse.’

However, councils including Hampshire, Fareham, Havant and Gosport said services are not currency affected by staffing levels.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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