Swansea health leader warns hospital beds could be full in four weeks

THE spread of the coronavirus in Swansea Bay has exceeded the “reasonable worst case scenario” and all hospital beds could be full in four weeks’ time, a health leader has said.

But Dr Keith Reid said officials had a “really good intelligence system” and so knew early on what was starting to pan out.

Household to household transmission has been a key factor, he said, in the spread of Covid-19.

“We got many more cases, but maybe not the same rates of death – why is that?” said Dr Reid, director of public health at Swansea Bay University Health Board.

“We’ve got many more cases because we are detecting them (through testing).”

But he added: “The positivity rate of testing is nearly 28% in Swansea, and just over in in five in Neath Port Talbot.”

In other words, between one in three and one in four people who get tested in Swansea turn out to have Covid-19.

“That says to me, maybe we’re not testing enough,” said Dr Reid.

He also pointed out that the lockdown in spring was stricter, with household mixing minimal at best. Although some local lockdowns had been in place before the current fire-break, there have been more opportunities for the virus to transmit.

On the plus side, the rate of deaths is not as high compared to April and May as yet.

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“What is really heartening to see is how much specialist doctors, nurses and clinical teams have learned from the first wave,” said Dr Reid.

“We are also seeing people coming into hospital earlier, when they’re not as sick.”

But he said if the increasing strain on health and social care services continued unabated, urgent planned operations were at risk of being cancelled.

“Unless we do see an easing of pressure, we’re talking about four weeks before all our beds (in Swansea Bay) are full,” he said.

There are around 1,000 unused beds at the temporary field hospital at Bay Studios, Fabian Way, on the outskirts of Swansea.

However, it is the availability of staff and what skills they have which will ultimately determine how many could be used and what level of treatment would be provided there.

The region had a small field hospital at Llandarcy Academy of Sport, but it was decommissioned in the summer.

Dr Reid said it was vital that people didn’t switch off when the fire-break ends on November 9.

“We are not through this yet by any stretch,” he said.

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