HYWEL Dda University Health Board is thanking patients and the public for their understanding and patience as public advice changes and our hospital and community healthcare workers prepare for increased care needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a framework of measures the Welsh Government has given the NHS in Wales, and the Prime Minister’s address (Monday 16 March 2020) Hywel Dda University Health Board is putting in place the following:

Non-urgent elective (planned) procedures are being postponed, urgent and emergency procedures will continue (affected patients will be contacted directly and others should continue as usual)
Non-urgent outpatient appointments are being postponed, but urgent appointments will continue (affected patients will be contacted directly and others should continue as usual)
Visiting in all acute and community hospitals is being restricted, but not prohibited at this stage as the important role visitors play in meeting welfare needs (for example supporting mealtimes and helping patients walk and move) is recognised. Visiting principles currently are:
Strictly no visitors with symptoms of any infections illness (cold, cough, temperature, diarrhoea and/or vomiting)
No visiting to multiple patients across the hospital site
No children to visit (unless in the circumstance of end-of-life care)
Only one visitor per patient, recommended to be their main carer if possible (this also applies to paediatric and maternity areas)
Visits to be kept to 15 minutes (paediatrics and maternity will be assessed by ward nurse/midwife in charge)
Only one parent at a time to visit their child (no extended family without specific agreement)
For birthing mothers, only one birthing partner
Primary care (such as GP surgeries) are making local arrangements, but typically are:
Shifting to telephone triage, increasing over time to online and video consultations with patients where appropriate
Suspending some non-essential services, including travel clinics and shifting to telephone reviews where appropriate
Moving to issuing prescriptions in excess of one month where safe to do so
Therapy and community staff are reviewing changes in hospital and primary care and will adapt their work accordingly, contacting any patients affected, and ensuring critical care is provided
Non-urgent events and meetings are being cancelled or postponed to allow staff the time and resource to support this priority work
Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda University Health Board Ros Jervis said: “We are grateful to the framework from the Welsh Government, which has allowed us to make some local decision making to prepare our health services to meet the critical health needs of our population. We hope the public understand why we are making these changes, in the interests of our patients. We would like to reassure the public that our work on quality and safety continues and indeed is critical at this time.

“We have seen a lot of support for our NHS staff from the public, current and former staff and partners and we are extremely grateful for this, as it really helps staff morale. Unfortunately, we have also received reports of community staff being verbally abused for wearing uniform outside. This is not acceptable. Our community health workers are required to travel between patients in the same uniform. They implement national guidelines in regards to infection prevention and control. Whilst it is best practice to change into and out of uniforms at work and not wear them when travelling, this does not apply to community health workers. It is also based on public perception rather than evidence of an infection risk.”

The health board has this week set up a dedicated COVID-19 Co-ordination Centre to manage its planning and response. Strategic and tactical groups have been formed, together with specific operational groups considering areas such as primary care, community care, hospital acute care and workforce.

Members of the public, and NHS staff are reminded of the new approach in the UK, announced by the Prime Minister. If you or anyone in your household have the following symptoms of Coronavirus, you should stay at home for 14 days:

a high temperature and/or
a new continuous cough
We await any further updated guidance.

For most people the symptoms of Coronavirus are moderate and you can self-care at home. Check your symptoms first on the NHS online symptom checker for COVID-19

You only need to contact 111 if:

you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
your condition gets worse
your symptoms do not get better after 7 days
You should not go to your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Everyone should avoid unnecessary social contact and attending pubs, clubs, theatres, and restaurants.

We can all keep our communities safe by washing hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds using soap and hot water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose, or after being in public areas where other people are doing so. Use hand sanitiser if that’s all you have access to.

To reduce the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve (not your hands) if you don’t have a tissue, and throw the tissue away immediately. Then wash your hands or use a hand sanitising gel.

Ros Jervis added: “We understand how difficult it is for our public and staff in this rapidly changing situation. We would encourage people to refer to official sources for information at this time and not to trust unofficial sources of information, particularly on social media. Can I once again thank our staff, patients and communities.”

For public health advice please use https://phw.nhs.wales/coronavirus
For policy and government decisions https://gov.wales/coronavirus
For operational health board news https://hduhb.nhs.wales/
Facebook – @hywelddahealthboard
Twitter – @HywelDdaHB

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