19th January 2022
UK COVID Deaths – Daily 438 / 7-Day average 272
Total UK COVID Deaths within 28 days – 152,513
Total UK Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate – 174,233 (up to 31 Dec)
James Cook Hospital – Total COVID deaths – 736
All COVID cases within South Tees Hospitals Trust – 167
James Cook Critical Care
COVID cases – 6 (4 ventilated)
Non-COVID cases – 48 (22 ventilated)
It is now clear that the Omicron wave is waning. Local case numbers are falling but there is still a significant number of people in hospital. Yesterday saw our total number of COVID positive patients peak at 176, which is more than we saw during the first wave back in April 2020. However, things are not the same. Far fewer patients are as unwell as they were back then. The COVID wards are no longer full of people struggling to breathe. The hiss of oxygen masks is no longer ever-present and fewer and fewer people are requiring CPAP. There has been no need for any temporary Intensive Care Units and the number of patients on ventilators remains low.
Probably about a quarter of the patients on the five COVID wards have been admitted with other medical problems and their positive COVID test will be an incidental finding. In others, especially the unvaccinated, infection can still result in respiratory failure but the pneumonitis caused by Omicron is appreciably less severe than before. A third group is made up of patients in whom COVID has triggered other medical problems or caused a stable medical condition, such as kidney disease or heart failure, to deteriorate.
Whilst the situation is far better than we were expecting, the hospital is still finding it a challenge to cope with such a large number of patients. The staff sickness rate is decreasing but there are still many members of staff who are unable to work following infection with Omicron. Empty beds remain hard to come by and many patients continue to experience long waits in A&E.
Part of the reason that the hospital is so full is due to the difficulty in discharging patients once they have recovered. Many patients are unable to leave hospital due to pressure and staff shortages within the social care system. Others are unable to return to their own homes until a suitable care package is in place. Such delayed discharges inevitably lead to the hospital becoming clogged and the flow of patients grinds to a halt. Difficulty getting patients out of hospital leads to difficulty getting new ones in.
Fortunately, the number of COVID patients being admitted each day has begun to decrease and the situation should continue to improve. Boris appears to have already started celebrating the end of the pandemic. To be honest, it looks like he started celebrating way back in May 2020 and never stopped. For the rest of us, raiding the wine fridge at work and cracking open the champagne may be somewhat premature. However, despite the strain that the hospital is currently under, I am confident that the worst will soon be behind us and that the end is now in sight.