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Dr Gray's Hospital boss responds to claims staff being forced to take breaks in cars and changing rooms due to Covid-19 limits

By Lorna Thompson

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A LOCAL health boss has issued an assurance that all efforts are being made to address hospital capacity issues after claims that staff are having to take breaks in their cars and changing rooms.

It was claimed earlier this week that many Dr Gray's Hospital workers were being left with no place to rest and eat after Covid-19 social distancing controls limited the numbers of people able to use break and dining areas.

The anonymous staff member had raised concerns over how the situation could negatively affect staff health and wellbeing. Another employee has since contacted the Northern Scot to support the claim.

Alasdair Pattinson, hospital general manager at Dr Gray's, said: "Staff are not being asked to take breaks in their cars or in changing rooms – that is not something I would endorse at all."

Mr Pattinson said the two-metre social distancing rule had to be applied in staff dining rooms and other breakout areas to ensure staff and patient safety – and the same principle applied in relation to bed numbers.

The number of beds were recently cut from 190 to 158 to comply with Covid-19 infection controls.

He added: "This has, unavoidably, reduced the capacity of these areas and we are working to alleviate this issue as far as possible – including ensuring staff breaks are staggered, to reduce the numbers seeking to use them at any given time."

Where possible, areas were being re-purposed to provide staff rest areas and the hospital was ensuring as many staff as possible worked from home, Mr Pattinson said.

"As well as our existing areas, we are pleased to continue to benefit from the additional staff lounge provided by Project Wingman," he added.

Alasdair Pattinson, general manager at Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Alasdair Pattinson, general manager at Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

"The safety of our staff and patients is of the utmost priority and we will continue to engage with staff at all levels in order to ensure adequate rest space. We have a dedicated safer workplace group which is focused on exactly this type of issue. This group would concur that to ask staff to congregate in small spaces, such as changing rooms, is not appropriate.

"If any staff feel they have had no choice but to take their break in a changing room or their car, they are encouraged to communicate through their line management structures so this is raised and acted upon in the appropriate way."

Mr Pattinson also responded to the worker's claim that usual hospital activities and patient numbers had been vastly reduced due to Covid-19, saying this was misleading and unfair.

He said: "With regard to claims the hospital has 'very little in the way of patients' and that 'just about all activities in the hospital have been cancelled due to Covid-19', these are highly misleading comments.

"These give a less than fair reflection of the hard work of the staff at Dr Gray's who, though the hospital is consistently near to capacity, have maintained critical service provision throughout the first phases of the pandemic response admirably."

The manager added that elective surgery would soon restart and the hospital would continue to provide essential outpatient and remote clinics as the NHS moved into its winter response phase.

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