Maggie Oldham

‘Still in the eye of the storm’ — that’s the stark warning from the Isle of Wight’s top NHS boss as St Mary’s Hospital remains under considerable strain.

As case rates steadily start to slow down, now falling to 415 cases per 100,000 from a peak earlier in January of 1,171.6, chief executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Maggie Oldham, has said services are still being pushed to their limits and that people should not get complacent.

To cope with the surge in acutely ill patients, some of the Trust’s more routine services have been stood down but Ms Oldham has said doing that affects some patients’ quality of life as they have to wait longer for operations and care.

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The intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital, in Newport, is working at 50% higher capacity than it is normally commissioned to provide.

Last week, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust revealed patients had been airlifted to hospitals on the mainland as it no longer had the capacity to treat them.

Staffing troubles are also plaguing the hospital, with around 10% of staff out sick or self-isolating due to being in close contact with a COVID case. In the ambulance service, staff absences peaked at over 20%.

Speaking at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Ms Oldham said it was pleasing to recognise the prevalence is coming down but sadly for her it still feels like ‘we are in the eye of the storm’. She said:

“As it is today [Thursday, January 28] the IOW NHS Trust and particularly its acute, community and ambulance services, are under considerable strain, our mental health colleagues also.

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“We continue to see very high levels of patients needing our care — we are far from a position that we feel we have started to see the worst of it.”

The latest variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible and was, at one point, accountable for 90% of the Island’s COVID cases, which have now surpassed a total 6,000. January alone accounts for more than half of the Island’s cases as the new variant spread through the community.

Island Echo