Bed policy breached amid virus outbreak

MALE patients were housed in a women-only bay because of a bed shortage caused by a virus outbreak, it has emerged.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has a policy, in line with the Department of Health, that patients should not share sleeping facilities or toilet and washing facilities with patients of the opposite sex.

However, that pledge was breached in January when the hospital was in the grip of an outbreak of the highly contagious norovirus.

The disease, which led to the closure of a number of wards to new admissions at the start of the year, causes diarrhoea and vomiting and is highly contagious.

A report to the hospital board has revealed that the breach happened in the assessment area of the Emergency Admissions Unit.

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The report says: “Two male patients had to be placed in the female assessment bay which contained three female patients.

“At the time there were no male beds available in the hospital; bed availability and patient movement was being affected by ward closures due to norovirus.”

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Staff apologised to the patients and efforts were made to get the women patients into surgical wards as quickly as possible, the report states.

A spokesman for the hospital yesterday told how three wards were closed to new admissions in January due to norovirus, the highly contagious diarrhoea and vomiting virus.

She said: “We experience cases of norovirus every year. We have extensive contingency plans in place to ensure we can continue to manage demand for our services during periods when wards are closed to new admissions.

“On this occasion, the ward closures affected the availability of beds which meant two male patients had to be placed in a female assessment bay with three female patients for a short time.

“Staff apologised to patients and moved the female patients to surgical wards as soon as possible.

“The trust has strict criteria for ensuring patients are not mixed in bays on wards and this criteria has not been breached.

“There were no breaches in February.”

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