Green and blue 'zones', segregated parking and one-way stairwells among changes at hospitals
“Green zones” and segregated parking are among the measures being brought in by health bosses to keep patients, staff and visitors safe from coronavirus at two hospitals as more non-urgent services begin to restart.
Many pre-planned surgeries were postponed as hospitals focused their efforts on dealing with the influx of patients seriously ill with Covid-19, as well as urgent and emergency procedures.
But now health services are looking ahead to the “recovery” stage of the pandemic – and University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) Trust is making changes at Royal Stoke and Stafford’s County Hospital sites to ensure patients with Covid-19 can be kept separate from those without the virus.
A report to Wednesday’s UHNM board meeting said: “Our estates team have been working hard to change the way people move around our buildings by directing people to different entrances and exits, introducing one–way systems on stairwells and restricting the number of people in lifts at one time.
"Signage will be going up and we will be asking staff set the example for our patients who are increasingly coming back to hospital by adhering to the notices.
“In the longer term, among other changes, it is likely that floor three of the main building at Royal Stoke will become our blue (Covid-19) zone with the aim of keeping all in-patient areas of County Hospital green (non-Covid-19) where possible and we will keep an eye on potential second surges before agreeing an implementation date for this plan.”
Board members also heard that all health and care workers would be required to wear a face mask from Monday. Hospital visitors and outpatients are also being urged to wear face coverings as part of the new measure announced by the Government.
UHNM’s chief executive Tracy Bullock said: “We’re working through that to make sure we can implement that. We have been asking at a national level and we’re waiting for a response still so we can understand what we should be wearing and under what circumstances. We are readying ourselves for implementation.
“The second bit of guidance we have received is around visiting and relaxing rules for people who are visiting. Our position as an organisation is we are not going to change what we are doing at the moment.
“We have never not had visiting – we have been allowing visiting and it has been at the discretion of the ward manager. We have had patients at the end of life and their loved ones have been visiting them to spend time with them.
“We have already signed off a piece of work to revise visiting arrangements for maternity units. A birthing partner is already allowed to enter and be with the mother and the head of midwifery is reviewing that.
“A key thing is if we increase the number of people coming onto the site we need to make sure we are assured we are doing that sensibly and safely.”
Health campaigner Ian Syme asked the board ahead of Wednesday’s meeting if the changes meant UHNM would be increasing elective activity at County Hospital.
Mrs Bullock responded: “This isn’t a new aspiration. We have been working on this for a while to increase the amount of elective work we do at County and how we maximise that fabulous estate we have got at county.
“Covid has given us an additional impetus on that because of the additional impact on elective. During Covid we have been able to divert some elective to County Hospital. We have been increasing things like ophthalmology at County.
"During this time it is subject to the same Covid restrictions as Royal Stoke.
"When we have the new arrangements going we are keeping the main area of County as a green zone and that will enable us to pick up and increase the amount of elective activity we can do there.”