Shropshire hospital boss: 'Together, we can come out of this stronger'
Stacey Keegan is chief nurse and acting chief executive at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, near Oswestry. Here she speaks about the challenges the hospital has faced during the coronavirus crisis and what the future may bring:
"It has been more than two months now, since coronavirus really took a grip on the UK.
In that time, we have seen our country – and our health service – change beyond recognition.
There is no denying that it has been a challenging period, but it has also been one where the determination of the human spirit has been brought to the fore.
The NHS has had to adjust. In organisations up and down the land, we have had to grapple with problems we could barely have comprehended before.
We have had to implement in a matter of days, solutions that would normally take weeks or even months.
I am super proud of how we have responded. As a system in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, we have worked together to ensure organisational barriers have not got in the way of giving the best possible care to patients.
Here at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, we quickly made the decision that we would have to stop our regular planned surgery.
We have protected and maintained our specialist services. We’ve kept going with urgent bone tumour work and we have also protected our Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries.
But it’s simply not been safe to carry out the kind of routine work we do – hip and knee replacements and the like – when the risk of infection has been so high. Those patients would have needed extensive follow-up care as well, which we could not have done safely while managing the coronavirus risk.
What we did do was to work with our partners and agree to take on orthopaedic trauma work – broken bones that require urgent surgery that couldn’t wait.
Doing that made use of the expertise we have within our walls, while freeing up capacity for the hospitals at Shrewsbury and Telford to admit more Covid-19 patients who have needed respiratory care.
We’re acutely aware of our geography as well, and have worked with our colleagues in North Wales to take on day case orthopaedic trauma work that would ordinarily have been done in Wrexham.
This approach has been successful. We have not seen our acute hospitals overwhelmed as had been feared might be the case early in this pandemic.
We’ve seen a handful of Covid-19 patients in our hospital.
Five of those have sadly died. It is never easy to cope with loss, but I have been so proud of our team and the way they have supported the families of these patients and each other.
The care I have observed has been kind, compassionate and patient-focussed.
I would expect nothing less from our team here at RJAH.
It seems that we have now got over the peak of the virus, but the risk is clearly still there. As the Government tells us, we must stay alert.
The NHS is certainly staying alert – making sure we are ready and able to respond to any spikes in infections, while also starting to think about how we can start to restore some of our services that have been halted and get back to some kind of normality.
I often hear the phrase ‘the new normal’ being bandied about.
I think it is safe to say that coronavirus will be with us in some form for a long time to come – months if not years.
That is going to mean we must all – staff and patients – adjust to this new normal.
When we are ready to restore routine planned surgery, the process will not look like it did before.
We will have to ensure we have new protocols in place, testing arrangements in place too, that make sure we do all we can to eliminate any added risk from the process.
I want to thank our patients and everyone in the local community for their support and understanding. The offers of help we have received – from individuals as well as local companies – have been humbling.
We all know how much our country loves and cherishes its National Health Service.
That has never been more evident than during this pandemic.
Together, we can come out of this stronger. Together, we will prevail."