Despite warnings from Chief Executive Lesley Watts, hard-pressed doctors and nurses at the West Middlesex Hospital in Hounslow decided to have a festive bash this week
A furious hospital boss has slammed accident and emergency staff for holding a Christmas party which left many in the department sick after testing positive for Covid.
The outbreak of the virus amongst the A & E staff is so serious that, according to sources, the hospital is considering declaring it a ‘major incident’ because so many staff are having to self-isolate.
Despite warnings from Chief Executive Lesley Watts, hard-pressed doctors and nurses at the West Middlesex Hospital in Hounslow decided to have a festive bash at the beginning of this week.
But around 15 of the revellers, who are believed to include both doctors and nurses from the department, are understood to have been forced to call in sick after testing positive for Covid-19.
This is understood to have left the department, which serves a bustling part of west London, critically short of staff at one of the busiest times of the year.
A source who works closely with the department said on Wednesday: “The department has been forced to declare a major incident because they are so short of staff, they need about 20 people to run the department for each shift.
“They are on a skeleton staff at the moment and the hospital administrators have offered staff an overtime bonus of £75 for each shift they do over Christmas, which makes it nearly triple pay.
“However the well staff are not taking it because they have been run ragged already and they don’t want to come in on their only rest day after a week of 12-hour shifts.”
Bosses at the hospital, which serves Heathrow Airport as well as Twickenham stadium, are even reportedly considering docking the 10 days the accident and emergency staff are in isolation, from their annual leave as payback for ignoring the “no parties” warning.
In a letter sent to her staff this week, Chief Executive Lesley Watts said: “In the last few days, it is clear that a number of staff have attended Christmas parties together, despite my ask of you not to do so.
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“One group in particular sought permission from their line manager and were advised not to continue with their event. Despite being advised to cancel, we know that this group of staff chose to go ahead and many have now tested positive (for Covid).
“This is causing a significant challenge for their colleagues and impacting safe staffing over the holiday period.
“This act sadly puts even more pressure onto others who may have to work to cover the shifts for colleagues and it certainly doesn’t speak to our intention to put patients first or support each other.
“I am asking you once again not to attend parties or social gatherings as groups from the same department. I am reminding you that you should seek advice from your immediate line manager if in doubt.”
It was understood that there was significant discomfort among the staff at the West Middlesex Hospital over management seeking to tell them what to do and not to do in their private time.
The source added: “I do understand their frustrations, they have worked so hard and they don’t want to be told what to do in their time off by the management.
“However, it is a shame that what they did has led to less protection for the public.”
The hospital incident comes just days after dozens of ambulance workers who attended a Christmas party at Trinity Park in Ipswich, Suffolk, tested positive for Covid-19, leaving the East of England Ambulance Service struggling to fill their shifts.
A source confirmed that there had been at least eight cases following that party, with as much as a third of the area’s staff reportedly off sick due to coronavirus.
A spokesman for West Middlesex Hospital declined to comment on the issue on Wednesday saying that it was internal matter.