RD&E hospital put on highest possible alert

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has moved into OPEL 4, the highest alert level, previously known as ‘black alert.’

Katie Timms www.devonlive.com

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust has issued a statement explaining OPEL 4 has been activated due to “high levels of Covid-19 and non-Covid related staff absence”, as well as a large number of inpatients with Covid-19.

It comes after DevonLive reported 411 staff were off work from the RD&E due to Covid-19 related illness, either through sickness or self-isolation as of December 2.

Figures for November 11 showed the hospital had 614 staff off for Covid related reasons, and a further 412 general absences meaning the hospital was down by 1,026 workers that day.

A number of measures are in place to help the hospital out of the highest alert level.

Being on OPEL 4 means pressures on the hospital has left it unable to deliver comprehensive care, and there is an increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised.

Professor Adrian Harris, RD&E medical director and deputy chief executive stressed that despite the pressures the hospital is facing it is “important” that those who need emergency or urgent care phone 999 or attend the emergency department.

Prof Harris said: “We take infection prevention and control extremely seriously at the RD&E and in line with national guidance, we have strong processes in place to keep patients and staff as safe as possible.

“Hospital acquired infections can occur despite the very rigorous safeguards in place, although such incidences are low. However, if a patient does test positive for Covid-19, we have to shut whole wards or bays, and this leads to a shortage of beds.

“At the same time, we are facing severe pressures as a result of staff being absent from work due to Covid-19 and non-Covid illness or self-isolation.

“As always, our top priority is to continue delivering safe, quality care. To help us ensure this, I am asking people who do not need emergency or urgent care to phone 111 or contact primary care.

“This will help ease the burden on our overstretched services at this time. It is important to stress, though, that if you do need emergency or urgent care, phone 999 or attend the Emergency Department.

“In addition, where patients are medically well and able to leave hospital but cannot be discharged as there is nowhere available for their onward care, we are asking loved ones, where appropriate, to help make the necessary arrangements for them to be cared safely in other settings – either at home or in a care home.”

The measures in place to address the situation;

  • Our Emergency Department is extremely busy today with longer waits than usual. If people need urgent care, before coming to our Emergency Department, we ask that they call 111 or visit 111 online first. Through 111, they’ll be able to speak to a clinician, who will advise you on where to go and what to do next, helping them to get the right treatment at the right place more quickly.
  • Our Emergency Department is for urgent and immediately life-threatening cases only – if people need emergency care, we ask that they call 999 or attend the Emergency Department.
  • It’s really important that people continue to attend appointments and seek medical attention if they need it.
  • If a friend, family member, or loved one is medically fit and able to leave hospital sooner, we ask that people get in touch with our Family Liaison Service to help us make discharge arrangements. The service is open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, and can be reached on T: 01392 402093 or E: rde-tr.pals@nhs.net (if you cannot get through on phone please email and we will ensure this is picked up).

A spokesperson for the RD&E added: “To help manage the situation on staffing, the RD&E is working with partners across Devon to encourage staff from the RD&E and other NHS organisations in the county to work additional shifts where possible.

“Staff who can offer this help are being asked to get in touch with the RD&E as soon as possible.”

The RD&E continues to operate its maternity services as normal.