Royal Cornwall Hospital crippled by beds crisis
A major incident has been declared at Cornwall's main hospital as a triple hit of norovirus, sky-high emergency admissions and bed blocking forced bosses to consider a lockdown.
At one point, half the local fleet of ambulances were queued up outside the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust in Truro, as staff inside juggled with the massive influx and delays in the system.
About 20 operations each weekday have been cancelled and numerous beds closed due to a severe outbreak of the highly infectious winter sickness bug, norovirus.
Graham Webster, a governor at the RCHT, said the highly unusual event had proved how little slack there was in the system.
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"There is no resilience," he said. "The fact is that we have only got enough beds to cope with the normal demands of the service on a good day.
"When you have winter bed pressures or even summer bed pressures, the system cannot cope and it snaps," said Mr Webster, who is vice-chairman of the campaign group Health Initiative Cornwall.
"No-one is blaming RCHT, but the reality is that the system is broken."
The major incident, which remains ongoing, was declared on Thursday.
A pre-set plan kicked into action as it became clear the system was struggling to cope with an unusually high admission rate coupled with discharge delays – sometimes called bed blocking – where patients fit to leave the ward cannot do so because a community hospital place or home care package is unavailable.