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75 deaths through five major Coronavirus outbreaks in North Wales hospitals over 12 months

A health board infection prevention and control report has revealed 75 people died because of five major coronavirus outbreaks in North Wales hospitals during the past year.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s annual infection prevention and control report was discussed at Thursday’s health board meeting.

It revealed how hospital acquired infections had reduced significantly over the past year from April 2020-March 2021, apart from C difficile and Covid-19.

It revealed five Covid outbreaks within hospitals had been classified as level three, meaning:

It affected “multiple sites across the Health Board, or which presents a significant risk to a large number of patients, staff or visitors, and/or requires significant control measures such as the closure of large numbers of wards or facilities and services, and/or threatens health board ability to meet its emergency or elective commitments.”

Two outbreaks occurred at Ysbyty Wrexham Maelor, two at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan and one at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.

The most severe took place in Wrexham between October 2020 and was de-escalated in April this year, with 125 people affected and 37 deaths as a result.

The report said all deaths were subject to a “post infection review and mortality review”.

It added: “We have written to all patients where appropriate or next of kin that have been affected advising of them of pending investigations.

“This will be followed up with outcome findings on an individual basis.

“Significant learning regards staff movement, patient movement, routine screening for patients at day five, social distancing and adherence to infection prevention practices actions were implemented as a result and shared across the health board.”

A previous outbreak, between July and September 2020, resulted in 48 infections and 14 deaths.

At Ysbyty Glan Clwyd a level three outbreak between August and October 2020 resulted in 44 infections and eight fatalities.

A further outbreak between December 2020 and March 2021 was responsible for 97 infections and 16 deaths.

All patients and next of kin have also been written to advising them of pending investigations, which will be followed up with individual findings.

The report added: “Further learning was uncovered in regards staff movement, patient movement, social distancing, access to suitable changing facilities and adherence to enhanced infection prevention and control practices, of which actions were implemented as further understanding of the virus emerged both internally and externally of which was shared across the health board.”

The final outbreak, at Ysbyty Gwynedd, was declared in March 2021 and is still continuing at level three status.

It is anticipated this will push the numbers of those who have died due to hospital acquired Covid higher, although the numbers affected by the outbreak haven’t been revealed.

The report said: “There has been a significant reduction in the number of transmission episodes with the de-escalation anticipated on the 23 May 2021.”

Special segregation cubicles/pods, which allow people with suspected coronavirus infections to be assessed in a secure environment, were installed in Wrexham Maelor before the second wave of the pandemic.

“Wrexham Maelor Hospital was able to demonstrate a reduction in the number of patients exposed to Covid-19 whilst awaiting test results and also demonstrated a
significant reduction in the number of beds closed due to Covid contacts,” said the study.

“This initiative was later rolled out across assessment areas within Glan Clwyd Hospital and pods are now also being installed in Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital.”

The report said using the secure cubicles had “led to an overall reduction of beds across the health board”.

Between April 2020 and March this year there were 3,045 admissions into North Wales hospitals of Covid-19 positive patients, of which 52% were “associated with community infection”.

Seventy percent of those patients were 70 years of age or older and the average stay in hospital between March 2020 and January 2021 was 28 days.

The study also revealed at the height of the second wave in January around 1,100 Covid patients were dealt with in the region’s hospitals, around 200 more than the initial peak in May last year.

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