COVID-19: 'Robust' plan in place as hospital prepares for wave of coronavirus cases

·3-min read

Dominika Gruszka is about to be discharged. 

She had been waiting for two years to have the fibroids in her womb removed - in that time they have grown in size, causing her much discomfort and pain.

Finally, she has had the operation. But what would have been a small keyhole incision is now a much longer cut running from just below her belly button to her groin area.

The scar is the least of Dominka's worries.

She was told the fibroids had grown so much that surgeons may have to remove her uterus. Dominika was understandably devastated at the prospect of never starting a family.

"I have quite a lot of fibroids and, as not having any children yet, I felt like it was crazy that… I was going to lose my whole uterus because obviously with the amount of fibroids I had and the size.

"It was a huge risk for me."

Dominika's operation was a success and her uterus was saved.

This is the first time her infectious smile disappears - her eyes are filled with tears and she is trying not to cry.

It shows how much even routine operations can have life-impacting consequences if not treated on time.

She is full of praise for her surgeon and the staff who have treated her at Kingston Hospital, in south west London.

The hospital's director of operations, Tracey Moore, says she is determined to clear the backlog of patients waiting for elective surgery as quickly as possible.

But she is also aware that some hospitals around the country have been forced to delay non-urgent operations because of surging COVID-19 cases.

Ms Moore said: "We are worried, as every hospital will be, and I think the key to it is making sure that we've got robust plans, and that we know what the triggers are, and when we need to deploy a different plan of action.

"And so what we've been doing is looking to see increased numbers, where will we expand our ICU capacity? What will we do with our elective activity?

"Do we need to stand down some of our outpatients because they've really caught up and keep some of the other outpatients going?"

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"I think staff are feeling anxious about it. I think it was a really difficult year to 18 months, I think we do look at it with some trepidation.

"On one level, it's almost unbearable to think of having to do it again. But I think if we have to, we've got a good plan."

The hospital has been impacted by self-isolating staff.

But the government announcement that NHS workers will not have to self-isolate anymore as long as they are tested eases some of the pressure.

There is still nervousness around the lifting of restrictions - COVID cases are hitting record numbers and this winter's flu season is expected to be deadlier than ever with a resurgence of winter respiratory illnesses.

Add to that the five million people on the waiting list and you can see why staff in the NHS might be feeling a little nervous.

Berenice Constable, head of nursing for unplanned care at Kingston, said there was "anxiety'' among staff.

"We've got really good contingency plans in place, we have been tried and tested from our first two waves in the pandemic," she said.

"But alongside that we obviously have now got the plan to support and to continue to support our elective programme as much as we can.

"Those beds are ring fenced to support the elective patients going through, so they're not impacted by the emergency admissions, and we have a team of staff that are dedicated to look after those patients.

"I think there are some people who are quite happy to be getting back on with the business as usual and the work that they generally do, but there is that low level of anxiety and the background around what's next.

"We're very aware that COVID hasn't gone away."

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