Rob Sainsbury, group managing director for Health and Community, told a Scrutiny hearing that the department had made extensive preparations for the coming winter.
‘Our focus is that we do not want to revert to the previous [first-wave] approach,’ Mr Sainsbury told members of the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel. ‘If we do start to see a spike, we don’t envisage taking the same action as previously, as we are concerned about the potential impact.’
The intention would be that cancer screening, elective surgery and day surgery would all continue, Mr Sainsbury explained, with separate ‘hot and cold pathways’ ensuring that business as usual could continue while other areas of the Hospital were accommodating patients with coronavirus.
Using the Nightingale Wing was another element of the strategy, and chief nurse Rose Naylor said a growing number of staff had been awarded ‘Nightingale passports’, denoting that they had completed the training which meant they could work at the Millbrook facility if necessary.
Assistant Health Minister Steve Pallett said it was also hoped to have a similar approach to maintaining mental-health services.
And Senator Pallett said there had been good progress with Jersey Talking Therapies, with the total waiting list having fallen from 447 to 208 since the start of March.
Those needing the highest level of talking therapy were still facing a wait, the panel was told, but an additional £150,000 in funding would enable some virtual therapy to be provided by specialists from outside the Island, with the aim of clearing waiting lists by December.
Asked by Deputy Trevor Pointon about the impact of the pandemic on Islanders’ mental health, Mr Sainsbury said: ‘It’s quite early days and, as with physical health, it may be some time before we have the full picture but services are busy and some cases are clearly attributable to Covid, whether this stems from job, family or quarantine issues.’
The Panel also heard that:
lAll day 5 Covid tests for arriving passengers are now being dealt with by Jersey laboratory, but some swabs from routine screening would still be sent to a UK facility, helping maintain the Island’s resilience in the event of the local lab being out of action.
l School pupils would no longer be permitted to return to school following periods of self-isolation until any outstanding results from Covid tests had been received.
l A new consultant gastroenterologist had been appointed to tackle a backlog of endoscopy work, including bowel screening, and should start work in January.
Health Minister Richard Renouf referred to a ‘ferocious escalation’ of Covid infections in the UK and Europe, but said it was still the intention not to follow countries such as France, Germany and Wales in introducing lockdown measures.
‘I am confident we are well prepared and do not think it would be proportionate to have an Islandwide lockdown, although we cannot rule it out and will be ready to act if needed,’ he said. ‘Our strategy is to address and control infections where they occur, with measures such as distancing, wearing masks and good hygiene.’