HOSPITAL bosses have apologised after “very high staff absences” due to Covid-19 saw operating theatres close and “stressed” employees asked to give up annual leave to help prioritise urgent services.
In Rotherham, 559 staff are currently off sick, 310 of which have Covid-19 or are isolating.
The crisis has led to 30 new nurses being recruited and some operating theatres and ward areas being closed.
A report by Dr Richard Jenkins, interim chief executive at the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, to the trust’s board of directors said staff sickness was “being managed on a shift by shift basis daily,” and that testing for staff has been “ramped up accordingly”.
Dr Jenkins told the board meeting on Friday that hospitals across South Yorkshire were facing “very high staff absence levels” in the ten to 15 per cent range.
“The local resilience forum has declared a critical incident for our patch,” he said.
“That was declared on the Christmas Eve and that’s still live.”
“On the back of that, the local trusts have not been declaring critical incidents, because we view it as the whole system is in a critical incident mode of working.
“Staff are quite stressed and we do not have the numbers of staff on duty that we would normally wish to have.”
Hospital staff have been asked to consider relinquishing any booked annual leave to “support the operational pressures”, and given the option to roll their leave over to the next financial year.
George Briggs, chief operating officer, added that the number of staff off sick meant that some non-essential areas had to be closed, and staff had been moved from non-clinical based areas to support clinical areas.
“We’ve also closed some theatres…and some ward areas,” he added.
Despite the staffing challenges, a minimum of two nurses on all wards has been maintained, and 30 additional nurses have been recruited, Mr Briggs said.
A spokesperson for The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are experiencing particularly high staff absences at the moment due to Covid-19 and isolation rules, alongside the usual sickness at this time of year.
“As a result, we are prioritising urgent services over some more routine work. “We hope to resume normal services as soon as possible and apologise if this has any adverse impact on our patients.
“You can help us to help you by ensuring you are vaccinated against Covid. “And, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, if you have a health problem, please go to 111 online and call 999 when it is a life-threatening condition.”