Vale of Leven campaigner: Plea to use empty wards to tackle danger Covid/flu combination

By Lorraine Weir

A leading hospital campaigner has once again made a plea for mothballed wards at the Vale to be used to cope with a dangerous combination of flu and Covid amid grave warnings from a health expert.

Jenny Harries, who is the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told Sky News at the weekend that patients who catch both are twice as likely to die than they would if they just had coronavirus.

And Jim Moohan of Hospitalwatch believes that this shows an urgent need for unused wards to be brought back into consideration as winter looms.

He told the Lennox Herald: “We, as a campaign group, previously requested that wards which were mothballed be made available to accommodate patients. This has now become more urgent based on the Ms Harries’ comments.

“We cannot have another situation which happened previously of patients being removed from hospital into care homes.

“The maximum facilities at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria must be put in a state of readiness to meet this challenge. “There have been too many tragedies over the last 18 months that we should now have the wisdom to have in place the resources required.”

Ms Harries was warning that it could be an uncertain winter due to lower flu cases recently.

She said: “The risks of catching both together still remain. And if you do that, then early evidence suggests that you are twice as likely to die from having two together, than just having Covid alone.

“So I think it’s an uncertain winter ahead - that’s not a prediction it’s an uncertain feature - but we do know that flu cases have been lower in the previous year so immunity and the strain types are a little more uncertain.”

In April 2020, health chiefs said there was the potential to reopen ward six at the Vale of Leven if required however it is understood this was never needed.

Meanwhile elderly people have been forced to travel a “considerable distance” for their Covid boosters, according to Jackie Baillie.

The Dumbarton MSP says she has been contacted by a number of constituents who have been given slots far from home and have been unable to change them.

She has written to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health chiefs to try and sort the issue out.

The Labour member told us: “It is unacceptable that elderly people are not able to access their Covid-19 vaccine booster locally. Sending elderly, vulnerable people on long journeys, especially as the weather worsens, is completely the wrong thing to do if they want to make sure that uptake remains high.

“I urge the health board to change the appointments that have been given so that older and more vulnerable people can access their booster quickly and easily.”

And she said similar problems had arisen with the rollout of vaccinations for those aged 12 to 15.

We told recently how these would be offered at community drop-ins outwith school.

Jackie added: “It is nonsensical that young people aren’t receiving their Covid vaccine in schools and the health board should be working with the Scottish Government and local authorities to roll out a vaccine programme for young people which is easy for them to access.”

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said they were grateful to those who attended for their Covid boosters.

He added: “We have tried to make it as easy as possible for them to receive both the booster and the flu vaccine through our established Covid-19 clinic network. This year’s flu vaccination programme marks one of the largest rollouts ever and across Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“This means that as the booster programme is opened up to the community, patients can get both vaccinations at the same time which is the easiest and most efficient way to ensure as many people as possible are vaccinated.”

He went onto say that free transport and support was available to those unable to or worried about travelling to and from a clinic. They should call the national flu hotline on 0800 030 8013 for assistance.

He advised that those needing help with travel for their Covid vaccination appointment should contact Traveline Scotland.

And he told how Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s MyBus service was available.

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