Nightingale likely to remain for three more months

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Caroline Landon made the comment during a quarterly Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel hearing yesterday and added that her department were confident they would be able to staff the temporary facility, should it be needed.

Meanwhile, data released yesterday showed that Jersey’s Covid-19 vaccination programme remained ahead of the target to reach all over-50s and anyone at risk by late March, despite supply issues that have caused a recent slowdown.

And figures for 2020 released by the Superintendent Registrar showed that despite the pandemic, the number of registered deaths in Jersey last year dropped by almost 10% from 2019.

Responding to a question about the Nightingale from panel chairman Deputy Mary Le Hegarat, Ms Landon said: ‘We have identified that we think we will need to extend the provision of the Nightingale for an additional quarter. It was currently planned [to be in place] until the end of March and we have sought permission to extend that to quarter-two.

‘In conversations with clinical colleagues we have determined that although the vaccine offers much promise for us to move forward, we still do not have enough evidence around the efficacy of the vaccine around the impact upon illness.’

Ms Landon added that while the vaccine research ‘does suggest that you can still transmit the disease, it will not be as virulent in its presentation’.

She added: ‘We are clear that we need to have more information around the disease before we make any decision that could impact on our business continuity going forward. We think another three months will enable us to have more detail to influence our decision for the future.’

Patrick Armstrong, medical director, added that it was currently unclear how the Island’s case numbers would be affected once border restrictions were lifted.

‘We will not have opened our borders by that stage [March] and that is one of the big risks. The other is that new variants are continuing to emerge across the world and, as travel increases, there is a great deal of uncertainty with that.’

Deputy Le Hegarat also asked department representatives how much had been spent on the unused hospital since work to install it began last April and how much it would cost to extend its lease. The building is owned by Netherlands-based Neptunus Structures. This information would not be available until the end of the month, the panel heard.

Deputy Kevin Pamplin asked, when temporary hospitals were beginning to be dismantled in the UK, why Jersey was continuing to keep its Nightingale.

He also asked whether it was being used to support the ageing General Hospital while its replacement was designed and built.

Ms Landon said: ‘I can assure you there is no intent to use the Nightingale for any other purpose than for resilience.

‘We are not the UK. We are an Island and we are unable to transfer patients down the road to other facilities or access staff from other facilities.’

Earlier in the hearing, Rob Sainsbury, group managing director for Health and Community Services, said that at the height of December’s Covid outbreak, 128 HCS staff were absent from work.

Despite this, Ms Landon said she was confident the temporary facility could be manned if it was required and there was an ‘ongoing programme of training and recruitment’ to ensure there would be enough staff.

‘We will not say that it would not be a challenge – it would and it would be an additional area for us to service. But we are confident that we will be able to do that.’

Yesterday, representatives from Jersey’s travel and hospitality industry called on the government to deliver a roadmap detailing when restrictions would be lifted following a spike in inquiries from prospective visitors. The increase came after the release of a tentative timetable of when protective measures in England could be lifted.

Responding to a question from Deputy Le Hegarat about when a roadmap for Jersey might be published, Mr Armstrong said: ‘We have to consider what is happening on the Island and then we really need to seriously consider the borders and the effect that might have.

‘It goes back to the balance of harm and weighing up those balances of harm is incredibly difficult because everyone has a different perspective on that.’

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