BGH ward is reopened following Christmas peak in norovirus cases

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AFTER the number of people infected with norovirus peaked over the Christmas and new year period, prompting the closure of a ward at the Borders General Hospital, NHS Borders confirmed this week that all wards have re-opened.

In a statement issued on Tuesday the health board stated that the hospital had seen a reduction in norovirus cases as we entered 2013, following a festive period which saw 15 patients and four members being struck down with associated symptoms.

There are a few individual rooms with affected patients in which are still closed and infection control measures are still in place with anyone displaying symptoms of norovirus, commonly referred to as the winter vomiting bug, asked to avoid going to hospital or any other healthcare facility for 48 hours.

Addressing the situation, Doctor Ed James, consultant bicrobiologist with the NHS Borders infection control team, told ‘The Berwickshire’: “At the end of last year the whole of Scotland saw significantly more cases of norovirus cases and the Borders was no exception.

“This meant a corresponding increase in the number of patients in hospital who have had the infection resulting in closed wards and restricted visiting in some areas.

“Norovirus is one of the commonest causes of diarrhoea and vomiting illness. It is very infectious and spreads quickly between people. This is why outbreaks happen in hospitals where a number of people are sharing facilities.

“However it doesn’t just occur in hospitals, and can start abruptly and spread quickly through communities.

“Although the numbers appear to be going down, it is important that we continue to take precautions to make sure we don’t have another increase.”

Visitors to Borders General are being asked to comply with any instructions given by staff or on signs at the entrances to wards. “This is vital to protect yourselves and your loved ones from catching this unpleasant virus, particularly as your friends or family members currently in hospital may be more vulnerable to this virus than usual,” Doctor James added.

An outbreak of norovirus first prompted the closure of a ward at the BGH in November and the condition has caused significant disruption at the hospital in the past few years.

However, the creation of a new annexe ward as part of the redevelopment of the hospital’s outpatient department. could go some way to minimising the knock on effects of such conditions in the future.

The new ward area will provide eight single rooms which can be used when extra capacity is required, for patient isolation or as a decant facility to allow refurbishment works to be carried out in other wards.

Assistant medical director, Dr Hamish McRitchie said: “The new medical ward annexe will be a very useful addition to our facilities. It will help us to maintain capacity at times of extra pressure and give us more flexibility.

“For example, recently we have seen higher than normal numbers of patients suffering from norovirus and this has put pressure on our wards.

“Having extra beds, which can also be used for isolation purposes will help us to maintain services in future situations like this.”

Planning permission has been submitted for the new build above the current Cauldshiels ward, with NHS Borders aiming to have the annexe ready for use by June.