We are ready for coronavirus, hospital bosses told
PUBLISHED: 13:44 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:00 04 March 2020
A Norfolk hospital has plans in place to deal with the coronavirus outbreak if it becomes a pandemic.
Board members at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn met as the government released its battle plans for dealing with the disease, which has infected more than 90,000 arond the world and claimed 3,116 lives.
The blueprint warned "widespread exposure in UK may be inevitable", adding pressures on society may become "significant".
Libby McManus, chief nurse at the QEH, told board members: "We've dusted off our pandemic policies. They're good policies, they stand us in good stead."
She said Stanhoe Ward at the hospital had been earmarked for infectious patients, adding: "Staff are ready and prepared for it."
Professor Steve Barnett, chairman of the trust which runs the 500-bed hospital, said: "It's an evolving picture but we can be sure we are doing everything in national terms we've been asked to do."
Senior managers will be having daily meetings to review the spread of the virus.
Two coronavirus 'pods' have been installed alongside the QEH. Those who believe they are showing symptoms should not go straight to hospital but dial 111 to contact emergency staff.
As yet, it is not believed to have been used.
It came as the government warned staff absences, school closures, disruption to non-urgent care and cancellation of large-scale events are all possible scenarios if the virus becomes a "severe prolonged pandemic".
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Its 27-page battle plan says any future action depends on the course of the disease, "which cannot be predicted accurately at this point".
Outlining measures to delay the spread of the virus, the Government document says: "Action that would be considered could include population distancing strategies (such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings) to slow the spread of disease throughout the population, whilst ensuring the country's ability to continue to run as normally as possible.
"The UK government's education departments' planning assumptions include the possibility of having to close educational settings in order to reduce the spread of infection.
If transmission of the virus becomes established in the UK, authorities will move to try to mitigate its impact.
Up to a fifth of employees could be absent from work in a "stretching scenario", according to the document.
If significant numbers of police staff are unable to work, forces will concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order.
In the health service, roster changes may be necessary which would involve "calling leavers and retirees back to duty".
The outbreak may lead to a temporary reduction and delay in non-essential care.
Health and social care services will work to achieve early discharge of patients from hospital so more people can be cared for in their own homes.
The document continued: "Everyone will face increased pressures at work, as well as potentially their own personal illness or caring responsibilities.
"Supporting staff welfare will be critical to supporting an extended response."