TWO more hospital wards in Lothian have been shut down by the winter vomiting bug norovirus, as cases continue to rocket throughout the region.
The latest figures, released by Health Protection Scotland, show that this week six wards were closed in Lothian because of the virus – an increase of 50 per cent in seven days.
Three wards at Liberton Hospital, one at the Western General Hospital, one at Roodlands Hospital and another at Ferryfield House were shut because of a virus outbreak.
Part of a ward at the Royal Infirmary – which has been under particular pressure due to the onset of winter – is also out of action due to norovirus.
It means that one-third of the hospital wards shut down by the bug in all of Scotland are in the Lothian region, with only the larger Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board facing similar levels of strain.
On Monday, 50 patients from shut wards had been affected by norovirus, while another 17 NHS Lothian staff members had symptoms. Across Scotland, there are 170 patients and 67 staff members displaying symptoms.
Dr Alison McCallum, NHS Lothian’s director of public health and public policy, warned of the dangers of norovirus while giving an update on hospital infections last week.
She said: “Norovirus is not simply a short-term illness – in the elderly or the sick it can be very serious. We are seeing the season start earlier and the appearance of new strains.
“Many people were previously taught if someone had norovirus they were immune in the future, but that’s no longer the case. People are susceptible to every little shift in the organism and it feels like it’s shifting more and more quickly.”
After yesterday’s release of the latest Health Protection Scotland figures, Dr McCallum added: “There has been a significant increase in the number of cases of norovirus over the past month.
“While we have strict infection control procedures in place to contain any outbreaks within our hospitals – which includes closing wards to new admissions – visitors can help by washing their hands when entering and leaving wards and not coming into hospital if they are feeling unwell.”
News of the latest ward closures came as Health Secretary Alex Neil became the latest high-profile figure to say the Royal Infirmary is undersized.
Speaking in a health service debate at Holyrood, He said: “The Royal Infirmary should’ve been bigger by at least 20 per cent” when it was planned more than a decade ago.
NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison last week unveiled a plan to add up to 70 beds at the Royal Infirmary by transforming office space.
The strain caused by the bug is a key reason for the reopening of mothballed Royal Victoria Hospital, which has its first patients since it shut in August.