Hospitals on black alert

A STATE of “black alert” has been declared at Suffolk hospitals as they face severe bed shortages. A combination of factors, including an outbreak of highly contagious winter vomiting virus, has stretched hospital staff to the limit as they struggled to cope with the exceptionally high number of patients.

A STATE of “black alert” has been declared at Suffolk hospitals as they face severe bed shortages.

A combination of factors, including an outbreak of highly contagious winter vomiting virus, has stretched hospital staff to the limit as they struggled to cope with the exceptionally high number of patients.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds admitted it had no beds left last night and Ipswich was left with fewer than eight.

In a bid to bring the bed crisis under control, people were urged to stay away if they developed signs of sickness and diarrhoea, and not visit if they had suffered from the virus up to three days previously.

In Norfolk the crisis spiralled out of control, with up to ten ambulances left queuing outside unable to get patients treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

But while the situation in Suffolk hadn't been declared a “major incident”, an ambulance spokesman admitted they faced similar problems at West Suffolk Hospital yesterday afternoon.

Most Read

He said: “From 1pm this afternoon (yesterday) we probably had at any one time a couple of ambulances delayed at the hospital.

“They were unable to hand the patients over.”

The East of England ambulance spokesman admitted it was likely that patients were being cared for on ambulance stretchers in the A&E department as a temporary measure.

Isabel Cockayne, a spokesperson for the hospital, said a special area had been set aside in the A&E department to cope with the influx.

She said: “There are a total of 13 people being treated for winter vomiting virus. We are managing it effectively and dynamically.

“They have put aside a section of A&E where staff and A&E crews care for people who come in. This is a very dynamic process.”

She added the virus was very contagious but was an annual occurrence.

Meanwhile Ipswich hospital admitted it had been forced to go on “black alert” “on and off” for much of the week.

Jan Rowsell, spokesperson for the hospital, said their problems had been down to “complexities of care”, rather than winter vomiting virus sufferers.

“We have been extremely busy and that is all it has been. I can categorically say we have not declared a major incident. We are managing through.”

She said less that eight beds were available last night, out of 681 beds in the hospital.

But gave reassurance the hospital was still open and that it had never got to the stage where they needed to turn patients away.

All hospitals have regular bed monitoring meetings throughout each day. A system akin to traffic lights is used to determine how the hospital is managing its bed space.

Green = everything running smoothly

Amber = busy but managing

Red = less than 20 beds remain

Black = less than 8 beds remain

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter