With the high number of deaths in hospitals from COVID-19 we must prepare for likely further virus outbreaks and put a high priority on effective infection control. New Hospital Campaign (NHC) member Jean Ritchie has looked at the research about how the provision of single rooms promotes this.
She quotes one study as concluding “Single room isolation facilities are essential in acute hospitals and will become increasingly important as highly transmissible and increasingly resistant organisms colonise and infect patients”. A leading expert says “There is a consensus view in Europe and North America that single rooms in hospitals are important in preventing and controlling healthcare associated infections”.
From her review Jean says single rooms not only eliminate the risk of cross-infection but also, by putting sinks near the entrance to the room, underline the importance of hand-washing for all staff “which is not easy on a ward where washing facilities are shared”.
We can only have enough single rooms in a newly built hospital on a clear site, not an old one where only around half of the estate is to be renovated as the West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) has proposed. So far the WHHT have made no provision at all in their redevelopment plans for more single rooms. Building anew will save lives.
This is one of the reasons why members of the NHC have congratulated the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust (PAHT) in Harlow, Essex, just 30 miles away and in the same planning area as West Herts, on reportedly being given a conditional offer of £600million to build a brand new hospital on a clear site, which is their preferred way forward. Like the West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT), the PAHT were one of the first six trusts that the prime minister announced last September would get funding to build a new hospital. But as mentioned above the WHHT’s plan so far has not been to build a new hospital at all, only to redevelop parts of the decaying and inaccessible Watford General Hospital.
WHHT, which covers a much larger population than PAHT and has a substantially larger annual turnover, hasn't told us if it has received a similar or higher conditional offer - and if not, why they think no such offer has been made.
The NHC believes only a new hospital on a clear, central site can safely meet the emergency and specialist health needs of the West Herts population in the years to come, and WHHT must give this option full and fair consideration, which hasn’t happened up to now. After the experience of COVID-19 we cannot afford to get this investment in our futures wrong – lives will depend on it.