Report: Overwhelmed London Hospitals Turning Away Coronavirus Patients

A sign directs directs patients to an NHS 111 Coronavirus Pod testing service area for COVID-19 assessment at University College Hospital in London on March 5, 2020. - The number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the UK rose to 85 on March 4, with fears over the …
ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images

A report has claimed that Lewisham and Greenwich has become the first London National Health Service (NHS) trust to turn away coronavirus patients, sending them on to other hospitals as they struggle to keep up with incoming cases.

A senior clinician at the southern London trust told The Telegraph that due to a surge in demand they have had to transfer coronavirus patients to other hospitals, saying that on Tuesday of five patients in need of intensive care, just one could be admitted.

The medic said: “We’re running out of beds and running out of space. Some patients with Covid-19 are being shipped to other trusts.”

“Very, very difficult choices are having to be made,” he said. “Sometimes five new people are being intubated every 12 hours, but not all Covid patients are getting access.”

The trust disputed that any patient needing breathing support had been denied access, telling the newspaper that all those who have needed ventilation have received it.

The source added that the emergency rooms at the two hospitals being managed by the trust had begun to resemble “Covid-19 waiting rooms”, a phrase evoking images of overwhelmed Italian hospitals where patients are being treated in waiting areas. Government experts say that the United Kingdom is currently three weeks behind Italy; Sky News reported from a hospital in Bergamo that doctors are warning Britons that Italian crisis levels are heading Britain’s way.

Lewisham and Greenwich is not the only London NHS trust facing difficulty, with a source from another London hospital trust telling the newspapers that they only had seven days’ worth of protective equipment. London is the outbreak hotspot in the country, with latest figures tallying 1,221 confirmed cases and 56 deaths.

A government source told The Telegraph: “In London, the situation is already looking like one of the worst winters we could remember — elderly people needing ventilators and just not enough of them to go round. We were already under pressure, the situation is deteriorating pretty fast.”

Despite the government advising social distancing, avoiding public venues like pubs, and working from home where you can, there is growing concern over people in London failing to heed the advice, which fueled speculation earlier in the week that the government was going to enforce a lockdown in the capital.

The Johnson administration later said there was “zero prospect” of the public’s movement around London being suppressed.

“There are no plans to close down the transport network in London and there is zero prospect of any restrictions being placed on travelling in and out of London,” a government spokesman said.

However, support for a London lockdown has come from the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who told the London Assembly in comments reported by The Times: “I am concerned about people not following the advice. There are still too many people being witnessed on our streets, in our bars, in our cafés, using the Tube, using our buses.”

The Labour politician said “the advice from the government is just advice, and I think that provides a mixed message. We may move to a situation where we move from advice to bans.”

“…our liberties and human rights need to be changed, curtailed, infringed — use whatever word you want” in order to stop the deadly virus from spreading, Mr Khan said.

Deaths in Italy have surpassed those officially recorded in China, with Europe now being the epicentre of the pandemic.

The Telegraph has reported data analysis indicating that the death rate, in percentage terms, is rising faster in the United Kingdom and Spain than in Italy.

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