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GHA cancels operations, restricts visits as Covid-19 continues to sweep through Gibraltar

St Bernard's Hospital. Photo by Eyleen Gomez

The GHA has cancelled operations and restricted visits to a long-term ward against the backdrop of continued community spread of Covid-19, with seven cases also now reported in facilities managed by the Elderly Residential Service.

The Gibraltar Government confirmed there were three in the Jewish Home and four in Mount Alvernia.

All seven, who are fully vaccinated and stable, are being cared for in isolated areas by teams that do not interact with non-infected residents and the rest of the staff. Close contacts are in quarantine in their own rooms.

“Due to the robust screening program in place at ERS, all cases have been detected at an early stage of the disease,” a GHA spokesman said.

On Tuesday there were 1125 active cases on the Rock, most of them residents. In all but a handful of cases, people are recovering at home.

Officials say this suggests the vaccination program is offering robust protection from the worst effects of the virus, helped too by signs that the dominant Omicron strain appears to be milder than previous variants.

There were five people in hospital who had tested positive for Covid-19, though in some cases the infection was detected when patients were admitted for unrelated reasons.

Even so, the GHA is taking no chances, particularly at a time when its own resources are being stretched as a result of staff members who have tested positive having to stay off work.

On Tuesday, acting on the advice of the Director of Public Health, the GHA’s Gold Command made the difficult decision to stop visits to John Ward in St Bernard’s Hospital.

“This is in order to safeguard patients against the current high incidence of positive Covid-19 cases in the community and visitors testing positive following patient contact,” the GHA said in a statement.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and has been a collective decision by clinical professionals and Public Health advice to ensure that the measure is appropriate and proportionate to the current circumstances.”

“The reinstatement of visits to John Ward will be evaluated on a daily basis and held under constant review against the incidence of the positive cases in the community.”

Families were reminded they could contact patients and receive updates by calling and asking for John Ward on 20079700.

The GHA also has iPad’s available for patients to speak directly to their loved ones.

A rigorous swabbing and screening program continues to operate for both staff members and visitors entering St Bernard’s Hospital.

And in a separate development, the impact of Covid-19 on the GHA’s own staff led to the cancellation of routine operations as the operating theatre moved to Amber alert status.

Emergency and time-sensitive operations will be handled as normal, however.

“St Bernard’s Hospital’s alert status is reviewed depending on the impact Covid-19 has on its operational capability,” the GHA said.

“This status will be reviewed at the end of the week.”

The GHA thanked patients on John Ward and their relatives, and apologised to anyone whose surgery is cancelled at short notice.

“There is no need for patients to enquire as the GHA will contact those that are affected,” the GHA said.

“The GHA therefore kindly asks that patients not to call to ask about their own surgery. We will call those affected by any cancellation.”

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