For my first column of 2022 I would love to be talking about anything else but Covid, but I’m afraid we have not yet fully emerged from this long dark tunnel. Surely though we are now in the final weeks where daily life has to be so significantly disrupted by it.
The latest manifestation of the disruption is the building of one of the precautionary “hubs” for Omicron patients in the car park of the William Harvey hospital. While it is impressive that we can build such a facility in a couple of weeks, there are obvious problems for hospital management, staff, patients and visitors in taking the car park out of commission.
I know that temporary measures are in place to mitigate these problems, but an even more important issue is how the hub will be staffed. We all know that the Omicron variant does not spare NHS workers, so there are inevitable staff shortages already. The answer from the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group is that a mixture of experienced supervisors and younger students will staff the hub.
Of course the best result of all would be that we never need to worry about the staffing because no patients ever need the hub. If Omicron proves a mild variant then the fact that it is more transmissible may not translate into extra demand for hospital places.
Even if this happens it is still worth taking precautions at this stage where no one quite knows what will happen with the course of the virus. It would be much worse to have the extra demand for beds and no way of meeting it. Also it is good for us that one of the few national hubs is based here in Ashford, showing the importance of the William Harvey to the whole of Kent.