Anne Dennis, 74, was handed blankets and cups of tea by kind-hearted NHS staff as she sat outside Royal Preston Hospital while waiting to move into an isolation room
Image: Paul Faulkner/UGC)
A pensioner with coronavirus had to wait for 40 minutes in the ‘freezing’ rain outside an A&E department.
Anne Dennis, 74, waited outside a temporary cabin set up for coronavirus patients at Royal Preston Hospital, LancsLive reports.
She sheltered under a gazebo while NHS staff found and cleaned an isolation room for her as part of efforts to prevent a Covid outbreak at the hospital.
Kind-hearted NHS workers gave Anne and her daughter Nicola – not their real names – cups of tea and two blankets while they were outside.
Anne says she and Nicola, who also had Covid, endured a 40-minute wait in the wind and rain.
The pensioner has battled a series of health issues over the past year and her condition deteriorated earlier this month.
James Maloney/Lancs Live)
However, the situation was now complicated by the fact that the mother and daughter knew that they had also contracted Covid.
Both of them had positive lateral flow test results before Anne began to go downhill.
Showing signs of a new chest infection, Anne was advised by the NHS 111 phoneline to attend A&E.
Their Covid-positive status meant that they first had to report to a temporary cabin outside the main facility, under strict infection control measures designed to prevent the spread of the virus to other vulnerable people on the hospital’s premises.
The pair say that they appreciate the need for ongoing caution as Covid continues to rage – but they were shocked at the arrangements in place for people in their situation.
“Once you tell them that you’re positive, they say they will have to try and find some isolation space inside the department,” Nicola explained.
Lancs Live/MEN MEDIA)
“They said a room had just become available, but that it would need deep cleaning before we could go in it. And then you just stand there, waiting.
“That day (April 7), it was blowing a gale – really cold and with heavy rain.
“We were under a small gazebo over the door to the cabin, but some of the rain was coming in sideways and it was freezing.
“I asked if we could have a blanket as we were already cold by that point. They came out with two blankets for mum, but I didn’t have anything.
“Good enough, without us asking, they also brought both of us a cup of tea – so they must have [recognised] it wasn’t a great situation. But we both felt terribly ill in ourselves.”
Once the isolation room was ready, Anne had blood taken and was X-rayed by a portable device brought to where she was being treated during her four-hour stay.
The results confirmed that she had once again developed a chest infection – and she wonders whether the outdoor wait has stymied what she says has been a slow recovery.
Anne said: “A week later, I was still absolutely wasted – I don’t think it helped me one little bit by being stuck outside.
“I’m 75 in a couple of weeks and I’ve been ill for five months, so to wait in the cold for that length of time was horrendous.
“If I’d known that’s what would happen, I wouldn’t have gone, I don’t think.
“Nicola took a picture of me all wrapped up while I was there and it looks like a joke – you can’t even see my face. But it’s a serious issue.”
Anne says that the effects of the cold were compounded by a debilitating condition which means she cannot regulate her body temperature.
Despite the hospital-providing blankets and five layers of her own clothing, the biting wind still cut through the bone.
Anne added: “I have an issue with the thermostat in my body, it can’t cope with the cold – and it doesn’t make any odds what I put on.
“It’s hard to explain that to anybody – if you haven’t got it, you don’t know what it’s like. But let’s just say it added to the flavor of the experience.
“It really was a nightmare for me that day. But I do understand that it’s a horrendously difficult situation for everyone working in the NHS as well – they have been on the frontline all this time.”
Nicola shares her mother’s sentiment that individual staff were doing their best for patients – but was nonetheless left questioning the consistency, as well as the adequacy, of the protocol for dealing with Covid-positive patients in A&E.
She said: “They brought Mum a commode to use in the room while she was there, but, as we were leaving, she said she would need the loo again before heading home.
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“One of the staff said she could go to any of the hospital’s toilets, as long as she had a mask on. So I thought to myself, well then why were we left outside when we arrived? It just didn’t fit at all .”
Responding to Anne and Nicola’s experience, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), which runs the Royal Preston, said that the sheer volume of Covid cases in the community means that patients cannot always be brought straight into the necessary isolation facilities.
A spokesperson said: “Covid-19 positive patients visiting our emergency department are asked to isolate from other patients to help keep everyone safe.
“Due to the recent high numbers of positive patients attending A&E, it is simply not possible to always provide an isolation room and therefore temporary arrangements, including sheltered outdoor areas, may be necessary.
“Without clear details, it is difficult to comment on individual cases. Patients who are Covid-19 positive are encouraged to use their isolation room [toilet] facilities and, post-discharge, wait until returning home to reduce the risk of infection to others.”
As LancsLive reported earlier this month, LTH chief executive Kevin McGee told a recent board meeting that Covid was still stretching hospital services, even though many of those who were positive were now attending hospital for other reasons.
“We still have very strict infection control and prevention procedures throughout the organisation.
“[Covid] has implications about how we actually run the hospital and manage the hospital – and the processes and the capacity that we have,” Mr. McGee said.