Covid outbreaks in wards at South Tyneside's hospital trust, and at care homes, may have helped fuel pre-Christmas surge in infections

Hospital infections may have been behind a pre-Christmas surge in COVID-19 cases in South Tyneside.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:31 pm
Updated Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:51 pm

Health chiefs for the borough are considering the possibility that outbreaks on wards, as well as in care homes, may have prompted a spike in the rate early in December 2020.

“We saw what was quite a different situation in South Tyneside, compared to the rest of the [North East], with an additional surge in cases during December,” said Tom Hall, director of public health at South Tyneside Council.

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South Tyneside District Hospital, part of the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

“We strongly suspect that was linked back to difficulties they were having at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), where they were experiencing a number of ward outbreaks during December.

“We also had a couple of care home outbreaks during December as well, which drove additional cases causing this extra blip in South Tyneside during December.

“That started to recover just prior to Christmas, when we saw a pre-Christmas slump.”

Hall was speaking at a meeting of the borough council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Before Christmas Day, positive coronavirus cases in the borough slumped to a low point of about 350 cases per week.

But between Christmas and New Year this bounced back, to a high point of about 800 cases per week.

Measures in place at hospital sites include:

:: Reduced entrances and exits

:: Temperature checks for incoming staff and patients

:: ‘Staff bubbles’ to restrict movement between hospital wards and sites

Dr Sean Fenwick, director of operations at STSFT, said: “During December we began to see a surge in COVID-19 positive cases within our hospitals and we continue to care for more patients with confirmed COVID-19 in our hospitals now, than we did at the height of the pandemic last year.

“We have recently implemented a number of further preventative measures to really try and reduce unnecessary footfall onto our hospital sites from people who are potentially COVID-19 positive and unknowingly may risk spreading the virus.”

He added: ”We all need to continue to do our bit and remember the basics.

“Wear a facemask, wash your hands regularly, maintain social distancing wherever possible and stay at home.

“Please do not let your guard slip.”

Extra guidance from STSFT:

The Trust is now urgently reminding people:

:: Facemasks must be worn at all times within hospital buildings

:: Visiting to all adult inpatient wards remains suspended and patients must not leave ward areas to meet family members anywhere on the hospital site

:: Patients attending the Emergency Department should do so alone

:: Patients attending outpatient appointments, arriving for tests or scans, or coming into hospital for planned care should come alone

:: Abuse of any kind against NHS staff will not be tolerated and action will be taken as necessary

The Trust has a number of measures in place to help people stay connected with loved ones in hospital including virtual visiting with iPads available on all wards and a #SendingLove scheme which allows family and friends to send messages and photos into the Trust to be hand delivered to patients every day.

Full details of the scheme can be found on the Trust website www.stsft.nhs.uk

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