A BRIGHTON based hospital was warned of the risks of “infectious disease” when “shoving” A&E patients into cancer wards mere weeks before coronavirus hit the city, a leaked letter has revealed.
The Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, East Sussex received a letter on December 2 from the Leukaemia Care charity, warning of dangers that existed. In the letter, the charity said cancer patients were being left at risk by moving other patients to the ward, as they had compromised immune systems. The charity wrote the letter after a leukaemia patient, Mike Dicks, complained about the hospital conditions.
Mr Dicks said the hospital was “exposing leukaemia suffers to deadly infections” by moving A&E patients to the cancer ward.
The Royal Sussex County Hospital set up so-called ‘isolation pods’ from portacabins and shipping containers to prevent the spread of the virus.
But Mr Dicks captured photographs even up until last week which showed the practice of moving A&E beds to cancer wards was still ongoing.
Mr Dicks was receiving chemotherapy at the hospital just four miles away from the Brighton GP surgery closed down because of coronavirus fears.
County Oak Medical Centre was closed due to “operational difficulties”, but workers wearing protective suits were pictured cleaning the surgery and the nearby pharmacy on Monday.
Leukaemia Care have said 25 to 50 percent of those with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia die as a result of infection, rather than their blood cancer.
Mr Dicks said he and other suffers could well be exposed to infections brought in by A&E patients, and expressed worry about a “new coronavirus patient” being “rolled” onto his ward.
He said: “As a leukaemia patient I have a compromised immune system, which means I’d be at a high risk of dying from something like coronavirus.
“Yet when I went for chemotherapy there were, once again, A&E beds in the day unit occupied by patients with a variety of conditions.
“This new coronavirus patient could have come back from his skiing trip with a broken ankle and been rolled into our ward.
“Nobody would have known he had the virus at the time but we would all have been at risk of being infected.”
And other photographs taken by Mr Dicks reportedly show leukaemia suffers “shoved into offices” to receive chemotherapy, as the ward was full because of an increase in A&E usage.
Mr Dicks added: “I spoke to the husband of another patient and he told me he keeps their grandchildren away from her at home when she has received her chemotherapy for fear of them giving her a cold.
“But then he comes to the hospital and there could be anybody sitting nearby with an illness.
“It’s like a lottery.”
The letter echoed Mr Dicks’ concerns.
It said: “It is essential that CLL patients receiving treatment are protected from risk of infection as much as possible; this must be more difficult when other patients are also in the same room, some of which may have infectious diseases.
“Reducing the risk of infection could also bring wider benefits to the trust, including reducing antibiotic use.”
A hospital spokesman said that since Mr Dicks’ post, the Haematology-Oncology Day Unit escalation area has been closed, meaning no beds there were being used for A&E patients.
Chief Medical Officer of Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Dr George Findlay, said: “As part of our normal and comprehensive plans to accommodate increased numbers of patients during busy periods, we release beds across the hospital. These include beds in the Haematology Day Unit in the Royal at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
“Our preparations for the management of any suspected coronavirus cases sit separately and the Trust is adhering to national NHS guidelines.
“We operate robust infection control measures and follow the most up to date national guidance and procedures at all times.
“The NHS is well prepared to manage these cases without causing impact to other services.
“Our Medical Director and Chief Nurse are working directly with the patient to address his concerns.”