It has become apparent that cases of COVID-19 are rising exponentially in our community and that cases are expected to rise further in the coming days as the incubation period can be between 7 to 14 days and positive cases arising from close contacts are expected in the coming week.
This, of course, will have a direct impact on the Gibraltar Health Authority.
In view of this significant threat to GHA’s preparedness to deal with a potential rapid rise in the number of admissions, and to the safety of patients and the safety and resilience of GHA staff, the organisation has increased its posture to Major Incident.
This means that only priority surgeries, interventions, investigations and outpatient appointments will take place. Routine surgeries and appointments will have to be postponed until such time as it is safe for patients to be in to the hospital.
This also means no visitors to any GHA premises. All GHA staff leave is cancelled and staff are being actively recalled where it is necessary fo them to do so or where they are required to be redeployed to other departments to provide cover or additional resilience.
Medical Director, Dr Krishna Rawal, said: “It is with great regret that I make these changes to the organisation’s readiness posture, but it is critical that we protect our health services to deal with what I am sure will be a surge in cases in the coming days and weeks. We are absolutely committed to protecting those most at risk, and this includes patients in the hospital and the staff to care for those patients; that means restricting access to all GHA sites.”
The Minister for Health, Samantha Sacramento, said: “Perhaps the hardest decision has been to stop visits to patients in all GHA sites, particularly at this time of year, and there is nothing that I would have wanted to avoid more. However, we must protect everyone in our care, and by doing so protect the wider community.
“We have learnt a lot from the first time that the GHA adopted a major incident posture and I would not like to see clinical services stopped in their entirety or delayed where this can be avoided. A lot of this will have to do with resources, which is why these measures are just as much about protecting our staff as it is our patients.
"I would like to remind the general public of the impact that the rise in cases has on GHA staff. A lot of our staff who have been working so hard throughout the year had made annual leave arrangements to be with their families. As a result of having declared the Major Incident Posture, some, indeed many, may have to give up their annual leave and sacrifice their plans with family in order to care for patients who are positive and to keep our community safe. I would invite all those who consider that it is not important to follow the rules to think about the consequences of them not doing so.
“I would therefore implore that everyone supports the GHA and helps us stop the spread of this virus and keep us, and the staff who look after our sick patients safe. Stay at home and avoid mixing with others so as to contain the spread.
“Finally, if you are called by the Contact Tracing Bureau, be truthful as to your whereabouts and those you have been in contact with. Follow their advice, no matter how hard that may seem, because you are putting the lives of others at risk if you do not.”