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People who put off getting hospital help because of COVID-19 are now turning up with more advanced and serious conditions, an Oban consultant has warned.
Dr Izabela Bodzioch, who looks after non-COVID patients at Lorn and Islands Hospital, said they are now seeing an increase in the number of patients who seemingly avoided getting help when they first needed it.
Dr Bodzioch said worrying about infection and over-burdening the NHS could be among just some of the reasons why people put off seeking help early.
The message is loud and clear message ‘come to hospital if you need to’, she said.
Dr Rebecca Helliwell, Associate Medical Director for the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership has already urged people in the area not to ignore early warning signs of serious conditions and that includes signs of cancer.
‘Even though the NHS is busy with COVID-19, we are here to help with other conditions and I would reiterate the Scottish Government advice that people should not ignore early warning signs of serious conditions,’ she said.
Since coronavirus arrived in Oban and Lorn, the hospital has split its work into two areas – red for COVID-19 patients and green for non-COVID cases – to help protect patients and staff and stop the virus from spreading.
The Green Team runs two out of three wards at the hospital and is made up of a new group of staff who have come from different departments across the site.
Jennifer MacIntyre who is Senior Charge Nurse on the Green Ward said: ‘There has been a lot of work dividing and re-organising the wards as things have changed but things are settling down now.’
The new way of working has created some challenges along the way as well as opportunities.
‘The challenges include procedures taking a bit longer than usual because of
the different ways we must now work, including using additional PPE,’ said Nurse MacIntyre.
Using tablets and phones to help patients and loved ones stay in touch via virtual visits has been an opportunity to put technology to better use on the wards.
Dr Bodzioch said Green Team staff are finding ways of working well in the new situation and even ‘in these pressurised and uncertain circumstances’ are a ‘great team.’
She added: ‘Though it is an awful situation, there is a lot of good in us, we’ve found new strengths inside us and our relationships are even stronger. Staff responsibilities may have changed but the experience for patients will be the same. Staff have a lot of empathy. What if it was my mum on the ward? What if it was me? How would I feel?’
Nurse MacIntyre told Britt Doughty-Godchaux who interviewed her for The Oban Times, that she finds reassurance in being part of a larger team that extends beyond the hospital from ambulance workers to carers and volunteers all doing their bit.
‘The wider group of essential workers are keeping the communities going. It is very nice to receive and show support. Everyone plays their part and is doing their bit.
‘The Green Team is here to treat all urgent non-COVID cases and everything is in place to do so as usual. If you need care, don’t stay at home,’ she said.
Anyone with new symptoms or signs of serious conditions should get checked out either by contacting their GP, calling NHS24 on 111. If it is out of hours, or if symptoms are urgent, they should attend A&E. In emergencies still dial 999.