A health board has clamped down on visiting at three hospitals following a surge of Covid cases in their communities.
Visiting has been restricted at Caithness General Hospital, Belford Hospital in Fort William, and Lorn & Islands Hospital in Oban to essential-only.
NHS Highland hopes the move will protect patients and staff by helping to stem the potential spread of the deadly virus across its rural general hospitals.
The restrictions were put in place on Sunday.
Katherine Sutton, NHS Highland’s chief officer (acute), said: “We continue to see an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in our communities and this is having a direct impact on our staffing levels.
“This means we are at risk of being unable to deliver services across our acute hospital sites.
“We have worked closely with our colleagues in infection control and we believe restricting visiting will help reduce the risk of introducing infection from the local community into our hospitals, and give us the best chance to protect our patients and staff.
“We understand that this decision will cause anxiety for our patients, families and staff, however we believe the move to essential visiting across the hospitals will help us reduce the spread of the virus into our hospitals.”
Those planning on arranging a visit are being urged to first contact the ward their loved one is on.
Ms Sutton added: “Please do not visit the hospital if you or anyone else in your household has tested positive for Covid-19 or has any symptoms.
“National guidance now requires that, prior to visiting a loved one in hospital, you should take a lateral flow test and only visit if you return a negative result.
“We are grateful to the public for your ongoing cooperation and understanding.
“If you are visiting the hospital please ensure that you wear a face mask and wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before you go onto the ward/department and as you leave the hospital.”
Scottish Government guidance on hospital visiting is available here.
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