STV News has had exclusive access to one of the country’s biggest hospitals as preparations are stepped up in the battle against coronavirus.
Medics working on an intensive care unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) are on the frontline.
They wear protective gear because they are treating patients with Covid-19, a vital line of defence highlighted today by the death of a nurse in England who had the condition.
“There’s a natural anxiety among our staff, there’s no doubt about it. I think there is confidence once they’ve been in the area a few times and they’re confident with the donning of their PPE (personal protective equipment) that they are feeling more comfortable with that process,” said Jane McNulty, associate nurse director at the RIE.
“We may be working like this for a number of weeks or months to come so I think it’s very important to make sure our workforce are well supported and that they are able to give the care they can through this period,” she added.
There are usually around thirty intensive care beds at the RIE. But today, like every day of late, they’re working flat out to increase that. It’s now well over 100.
Downstairs in Scotland’s busiest A&E department they’re running a split service. One zone is for regular work and the other is kept separate for suspected Covid-19 cases.
The vast majority of people who contract coronavirus won’t need to go near a hospital.
But for those who do the system at the RIE it now means if an intensive care ward reaches 50 percent full another one is opened.
Dr Dave McKean, emergency medicine consultant, said: “Although we have a significant increase in patients presenting with coronavirus we still have our normal workload to deal with so people still present with heart attacks or strokes.
“And it’s really important that we’re able to deliver them the same high level of care that we normally do. At the moment, for example, that still makes up about sixty per-cent of our workload – it’s people that don’t have coronavirus, it’s other things they’ve presented to the emergency department with,” he added.
No-one can be sure about exactly what’s to come but medical staff at the RIE deal with life and death every day and they’re confident they’re as ready as it’s possible to be.