Tooting hospital has a ward full of palliative care patients and its intensive care unit is nearly full

By Sian Bayley, BBC local democracy reporter


A hospital trust with the worst coronavirus death toll in the country has a ward full of terminally ill patients and its intensive care unit is nearly full.

St George’s health trust in Tooting has seen 15 coronavirus deaths.

It had the joint highest number of deaths for a healthcare trust in the country so far on Sunday, alongside London North West University Healthcare Trust.

A statement on the trust’s website read: “Our thoughts are with the families of the patients affected – and, in all cases, we would ask that their privacy is respected at this time.

“As of Sunday 22 March 2020, 15 patients have tested positive for Coronavirus (Covid-19) at St George’s and sadly died.”

This weekend Tooting MP and A&E doctor at St George’s Hospital, Rosena Allin-Khan, tweeted about her experience on the wards.

She said: “Today, I did a shift at my local hospital and the experience was deeply, deeply eye-opening…

“Previously fit and healthy young people in their 30s and 40s, attached to machines, fighting for their lives. This is no joke. Yes, most may get mild symptoms, yes many are older but young, healthy patients are NOT immune. The worst of COVID-19, can be horrific.

“The Prime Minister has been blasé about this from the start, waiting for others to make decisions so he doesn’t have to. It is costing lives! Enough is enough. The NHS cannot cope and it won’t be long before doctors have to choose between who lives and who dies.”

Dr Lisa Anderson, consultant cardiologist at St George’s Hospital, also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, Sunday, that the hospital already has four wards full of patients with Covid-19.

She added that one ward has also been put aside full of patients with coronavirus who are being palliated as end-of-life care.

The intensive care unit is also “currently near capacity.”

As of Saturday evening (March 21), it still had 3-4 beds free.

Dr Anderson criticised the lack of personal protective equipment given to staff and said there was not enough testing.

She said: “There’s an absolutely nonsensical situation where at the same time as telling us we can’t work for two weeks because a family member, a child often, may have a common cold, we’re letting our nurses and doctors work for many hours at a time, 12 hours for the nurses, in wards which with absolutely minimal protection. Just a paper face mask, short gloves and a little halterneck apron.

“The current way we’re working in the NHS is actually, I think, adding to the problem because it’s not just that we’re infecting staff, those staff are leaving, they are taking public transport, public transport is being cut so the tube trains are now packed, so when they do run there is no way to socially distance the healthcare workers who are obviously not rich enough to travel by taxi, and so we are spreading this virus more and more.”

But Jason Leitch, NHS national clinical director of healthcare quality and strategy, told BBC Breakfast on Sunday (March 22) that there was sufficient supply of PPE, but distribution had been an issue.

He said: “I know there is enough supply, the distribution has been challenging, because we’re adding in new places, we’re adding in care homes, we’re adding in community pharmacies. We’ve not had to do regular PPE transmission to those places before, so that is causing some individual challenges around the four UK countries.”

He added that the distribution would get better over the next few days.



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