CORONAVIRUS: Lincolnshire hospital trust beginning the slow process of bringing back some business as usual, says boss

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust is beginning the very slow process of bringing back some business as usual to its sites, its chief executive has said

Andrew Morgan

But trust chief executive Andrew Morgan warned that a second peak or surge of coronavirus could mean having to pull back on that restoration plan very quickly.

Speaking to the Boston Standard on Monday, Mr Morgan said the total number of cases in the county of Lincolnshire stood at 916, with 34 currently in ULHT hospitals, including 23 in Pilgrim.

The number of Covid-19 fatalities in trust hospitals stood at 119 as of Monday.

He also revealed that the number of staff who had tested positive in Boston was higher than the trust’s other centres – but said this reflected the high level of cases in the district, which was more than twice that of other parts of the county according to one measurement criteria.

Mr Morgan said Lincolnshire in general had been more fortunate than other parts of the county in terms of the number of cases.

“We are seeing all these national messages about being over the peak, which the figures would suggest we are, but it doesn’t mean it has gone away. We still have to manage what comes in,” he said.

“Lincolnshire incidents have been lower than most parts of the country, so we have been fortunate that not had same numbers some other places have had.”

The first stage had been managing the incident, which remained at a Level Four emergency – the highest it can get, Mr Morgan said.

“We are now onto second phase, the restoration phase. We are still managing phase one, but starting to look at what services we can bring back online as normal business where we can. That’s what we are working through at the moment.

“Whilst we are doing all of that, we are making sure that if we have a second peak or a sudden surge on the back of anything that happens on lockdown easing that we still have the right capability and capacity to respond to that, including putting back in place our coronavirus capacity and pulling back on the restoration.”

He said he couldn’t make any comment on the content of PM Boris Johnson’s statement on Sunday, but said he had an interest as an employer, as well as in any impact it had on the lockdown changing and what that could do to its capacity to cope with it.

“The whole national message to stay home, protect the NHS, save lives, has all been about making sure our capacity is greater than the demand we have,” he said.

“We have had relatively low incidents, we have been able to keep up capacity above the demand so we have coped, we need to keep coping with Covid, bring back online some normal services, but be ready for any surge.”

He revealed that up to May 3, 1,061 ULHT staff had been tested for coronavirus, and 204 had tested positive. He said that figure of around 20 per cent bore comparison to the latest national testing figure (from Sunday), which showed 1,334,000 tests had been carried out and 219,000 had been positive (a figure of around 17 per cent).

Breaking it down by trust sites showed Pilgrim was the highest, with 142 positives from 675 tests compared to 55 positives from 348 at Lincoln and seven positives from 38 at Grantham.

“People will look at Pilgrim figure, but it’s partly because we’ve tested more staff, but I’d also refer people to the incidents of disease in the area.

“Boston is double anywhere else in the county. So when people say you’ve got more positive staff in Pilgrim, but yes we’ve got more positive cases in Boston, and most of our staff live in the area, so why would that be a surprise?”

He said Boston’s rate per 100,000 of population was around 273. The next highest was South Holland at 140

Addressing the issue of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Mr Morgan stressed: “We manage PPE as a single trust. At no time have we run out of any PPE at any of our sites. We have a good supply of PPE.”

There had been a suggestion on Bank Holiday Friday that there had been an issue with PPE at Pilgrim. “I got my managers to ring every ward, every department, in Pilgrim to ask them if they had PPE. They all said yes.”

Mr Morgan said that as of Friday we had 640,000 gloves, 5,500 gowns, 89,000 aprons, 78,000 fluid resistant masks, 49,000 ffp3 masks and 84,000 face visors

“I think people want to help us, which we absolutely welcome, and yes the national narrative has been PPE has been a problem. We have got ourselves into a good position, but it has been hard work,” he said.

“Sometimes stock has got lower than we would want it to get. But at the end of the day we have always managed to keep our stock levels such as which we have been able to keep our staff in stock.

“Our good position hasn’t come about by accident. We’ve got people on this virtually round the clock.”

Mr Morgan had a message for trust staff: “I thank my colleagues profusely for the way they are coping in adversity and in distress and in unheralded circumstances. No one has ever worked in circumstances like this.

“People have been professional, caring, flexible, and I just want to compliment the way my colleagues have gone about this.”