THERE is no outbreak of coronavirus, say bosses of Wokingham Community Hospital, despite the family of a Winnersh resident claiming that he contracted it while staying there.
Keith Sutherland — who is being treated for a fractured spine — has also been given a do-not-resuscitate order and has tested positive for Covid-19.
His daughter, Julie West said: “Dad was tested for the virus before being admitted to Wokingham Community Hospital, and was negative. But on Monday, April 13, they called us to say he had tested positive for Covid-19. And that the rest of his ward had too.”
However, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, says that due to its “exceptionally high levels of infection control” there has not been an outbreak on the ward Mr Sutherland is staying on.
Mrs West said that, on Wednesday, she was told her 74-year-old father would be sent home on Friday (today), as he was medically fit enough.
But yesterday morning, she was contacted by the hospital to say he was no longer deemed medically fit to return home.
“We don’t know if this means his symptoms have become worse, or if they’ve changed their mind after the government briefing,” she said. “In less than 24 hours they’ve turned around their decision.”
At the time of publication, Mrs West and her family said the family had not received clear answers as to why this decision had changed.
She was concerned that by discharging her father, her 73-year-old mother would be put at risk.
“If they send him home, he will infect my vulnerable mother who has not left the house in five weeks,” she said. “They told mum to self-isolate from him, but how can she do this when he is bed-bound with a fractured spine?”
She was also frustrated with the care package suggested for her father.
“He is very unwell now and has pneumonia, and cannot get out of bed without two people assisting him,” Mrs West said.
“We had been told even if he is alone at home — and my mum moves out of the house to protect herself — they would discharge him with carers four times a day, and an alarm around his neck overnight.
“He can’t move, he’s diabetic and insulin-dependent, is vomiting without warning, but will be left to wallow in it until carers get there. That’s not living or recovering — that’s torture.
“They don’t care. They expect him to deteriorate. They haven’t shown any compassion or consideration for our family.”
Mrs West found out this afternoon that doctors at Royal Berkshire Hospital had taken the decision to put a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) on her father when he arrived at the A&E on Sunday, March 22.
She said RBH told her this was because of his underlying health conditions. But she says her father did not consent to it, and is looking to overturn the decision.
“The consultant at Wokingham Community Hospital basically said to us ‘in these times, you don’t have a choice’, but we’re trying to challenge this. There’s pressure for a certain group of people to have DNRs. But we feel he has a good few years ahead of him,” she said.
“If the NHS was at capacity, I could understand the decision to look at two people and decide which to save. But it’s not. Look at the Nightingale Hospital they built in London for 4,000 people and there’s half a dozen patients inside.
”Why can my father not be given a chance? Until four weeks ago my dad was well, although living with diabetes and is six years post-heart surgery.
“He has basically been told his life isn’t worth saving and is not being cared for.”
Mrs West was also frustrated that the suggestion to move her father home did not focus on rehabilitation — even more important after Mr Sutherland fell again at the hospital.
“When he moved into Wokingham Community Hospital, the plan was for him to remain there and learn to walk again,” she continued.
“But they wanted to discharge him without an occupational therapy visit. He needs the best chance possible.”
After receiving the news from the hospital, Mrs West reached out for advice on social media.
Winnersh councillor Paul Fishwick said: “I read Julie West’s post on the Winnersh Community Facebook page and this required urgent intervention by Wokingham Borough Council’s Adult and Social Services team.
“I made contact with that team and very much appreciate the swift response that they have given to assist the family at a very difficult time.
“It highlights a major issue in the government’s system that patients are being sent from hospital into the community with Covid-19 and impacting on other vulnerable people.
“This situation must stop now and patients must not be released from hospital until they have been tested and do not carry the Covid-19 virus.”
But Mrs West said that both Royal Berkshire Hospital and Wokingham Community Hospital are under pressure to discharge patients with Covid-19.
“We feel like they’re hiding something,” she said. “We see the coronavirus death rate decrease in hospitals, not because it’s actually decreasing but because these people are being sent back into the community.
“People aren’t dying in hospitals, they’re getting them out and they’re dying in care homes and the community. And we can’t be the only family affected by this.”
A spokesperson from Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust disputed some of Mrs West’s claims.
“We are not able to respond about individual cases in order to protect the privacy of our patients,” they said. “However, we can confirm that to date, we have had no outbreaks of Covid-19 on either of our wards at Wokingham Community Hospital – an outbreak is defined as two or more patients having had a transmission from the ward.
“This is down to the exceptionally high levels of infection control that our staff follow day in, day out.
“The low number of cases we are managing are patients who have already contracted the virus before coming to the hospital, either directly or as a transfer from another hospital.
“We do not accept any new admissions unless we are aware of their status and this is monitored daily.”
The Trust is also ensuring that health and hygiene guidelines are being followed closely.
“Staff wear PPE for all patient interactions, with gloves and aprons being changed for every new patient contact. Masks and goggles are also changed every time a member of staff leaves a bay,” the spokesperson said.
“The wards are also completely segregated into areas for patients with Covid-19, a separate area for those with suspected Covid-19, and another area for patients who do not have Covid-19.
“In terms of discharge, we treat every patient on a case-by-case basis. But we have good availability of beds, and we do not currently need to carry out fast-track discharge despite the Covid-19 situation.
“We are only discharging patients when they are medically fit to return home, working alongside their family and any other professionals involved with their onward care. We do however follow a ‘home first’ model as we know that patients prefer to be at home wherever possible and recover better in their own environment.”