Asymptomatic staff test positive for Covid-19 at Somerset hospital

Ben Quinn
Photograph: TW Photo Images/Alamy

A hospital that has stopped accepting new patients in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19 on site has what its governing trust described as an “emerging picture” of staff with no symptoms testing positive for the disease.

Weston general hospital in Weston-super-Mare stopped taking admissions, including into its A&E department, from 8am on Monday “to maintain patient and staff safety”.

Members of the public were being told on Wednesday that the hospital’s A&E would remain closed and it was unclear if would reopen on Thursday.

All inpatients have been tested for the virus and there is “appropriate segregation in place for patient care”, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS foundation trust said in an update on Tuesday evening.

The trust’s medical director, Dr William Oldfield, said testing all staff in clinical areas at the hospital who may have had some patient contact was under way.

He said: “There are currently a high number of patients with coronavirus in the hospital. We have tested all inpatients and will undertake retesting in line with national guidance, and we have appropriate segregation in place for patient care.

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“Testing for symptomatic staff and household contacts has been offered across the trust since the beginning of April. In addition, there is an emerging picture of asymptomatic staff testing positive for the virus.

“Any members of staff who have tested positive have self-isolated in line with national guidance. We are also in the process of testing all staff in clinical areas at the hospital who may have had some patient contact.”

The hospital provides clinical services to residents in north Somerset – a population of about 212,000 people. It had experienced a “spike” in infections, according to the local MP, John Penrose.

While the cause of the spike was unclear, doctors have been worried about a mini-resurgence in localised areas. Amid sunny weather and a recent bank holiday, concerns have been raised about what some described as an influx of visitors to Weston-super-Mare since the easing of lockdown rules.

Oldfield said there are “appropriate levels” of personal protective equipment (PPE) available and added that “there have been significant efforts to minimise unnecessary staff movements across the hospital”.

He said that people needing care are currently being provided for in other settings as they work to reopen their A&E department “as soon as possible”.

Related: Somerset hospital closed to new patients to halt spread of coronavirus

He added: “Well-established arrangements are in place for any emergency referrals to Weston to go to other healthcare providers; new patients continue to have access to treatment and care in other appropriate healthcare settings in the area should they need it; and we are contacting patients who have planned appointments to discuss alternative arrangements.

“We are continuing to take the necessary steps with the aim of reopening the A&E department and accepting new patients as soon as possible.”