By Tim Clarke 16/02 Updated: 16/02 12:43
THE COUNTY'S main hospital was facing a bed crisis yesterday (Thursday) as the spread of a highly contagious winter vomiting and diarrhoea bug forced the full or partial closure of 12 wards.
A visiting ban was in place at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as health bosses battled to contain the spread of the norovirus, which has already caused a third of the hospital's 600 beds to be closed to admissions.
All non-urgent elective operations were postponed and ambulances were diverted to other hospitals, with GPs being asked to manage people outside of hospital wherever possible.
But outpatient appointments were continuing as normal as the Observer went to press yesterday.
Penny Venables, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “While stringent infection prevention and control procedures are being implemented in all affected ward areas, it is very difficult to contain the spread of this extremely contagious illness.
"The situation is escalating and we are now having to increase the measures we are putting in place to ensure that the situation doesn’t worsen."
“Up until now we have had voluntary visiting restrictions in place, asking those who have had symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea in the last 48 hours to keep away. We have now taken the unusual step of asking all visitors not to visit the hospital She said the hospital would consider exceptional requests from relatives with a particular need to visit a patient, but anyone wishing to do so needed to contact the matron or ward manager.
Across Worcestershire there have been five lab-confirmed new outbreaks of norovirus in the past two weeks, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
That was out of a total of 31 in the West Midlands which a spokesman for the HPA said was in line with what they expected at this time of year. There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course.
People displaying symptoms are advised to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet and avoid food preparation until 48 hours after symptoms have subsided.
Anyone whose condition continues to worsen should call their GP or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice.
For the latest norovirus updates from the hospital visit www.worcsacute.nhs.uk
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