Somerset

Coronavirus: Weston hospital 'to be shut for at least a week'

Health workers queuing for coronavirus testing
Image caption Staff were seen queuing for tests outside the hospital

A hospital that closed its doors to new patients because of a high number of coronavirus cases is to stay shut to new admissions for at least a week.

All staff at Weston General Hospital are being tested, amid what was described as "an emerging picture" of asymptomatic workers testing positive.

The NHS trust's chief executive Robert Woolley said it would be shut for "at least a week, possibly longer".

The council urged the trust to "explain exactly what the situation is".

BBC Points West's health correspondent Matthew Hill said 40% of staff tested last week had tested positive and more than 60 patients were found to be infected last weekend.

Image caption Staff who have worked on wards with the coronavirus have been told they can no longer work on virus-free wards

The hospital stopped accepting new admissions on Monday to "maintain patient and staff safety" but there has been criticism of the communication around what is going on.

North Somerset Council said: "Trust leaders need to come out and explain exactly what the situation is."

Mr Woolley, from The University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said the 40% figure cited "was a small sample testing" done last week and they would understand how many staff "have actually got the infection" when more results come back.

"By the end of the week I should have the results that tell me what we're dealing with, in terms of the scale of infection inside the hospital," he said.

"Then we'll be able to put our plan together to reopen but I need to be clear that it's probably at least a week possibly longer before we're able to do that.

"We want to be absolutely safe, we want to deep clean everywhere and make sure that staff are in the right places."

'Risk of infection'

North Somerset's Conservative MP Dr Liam Fox has questioned whether the high number of cases is connected to a high number of visitors to the seaside town "over the last few weeks' good weather".

Unison representative Joanne Kaye said staff had been "left in the dark".

"Many of those who work at the hospital only heard about the temporary closure through social media, which is a major communications failure," she said.

Mike Bell, the council's deputy leader, said it was "taking too long" for hospital bosses to "explain exactly what the situation is".

"Our priority is making sure there isn't an increased risk of infection in the wider community and what we absolutely don't want to see is the infection spreading from a peak, based at the hospital." he said.

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