Gwyneth and Meurig are in their 50s and 60s. Gwyneth works in the local primary school as a cleaner and is a type 2 diabetic. Meurig is a lorry driver and has developed coronavirus 19 and has gone into hospital. He is generally well but he is a big man and a bit embarrassed by his weight. He thinks he contracted coronavirus on his last Dover run.
Gwyneth has to self-isolate and she is taking this seriously. However, she isn’t entirely sure if this is for 7, 10 or 14 days but is waiting for the school to tell her more about this.
In the meantime, she is at home, worrying about Meurig, she knows he is a stoic man and won’t complain. He will be very uncomfortable in hospital as he is a private person. Whenever they have needed to deal with ‘health’ people before, she usually does most of the talking. She is worried that Meurig will tell staff he is OK, when he really isn’t and this may mean he will come home from hospital too soon and relapse.
What the pandemic has meant for them:
- Meurig can’t have visitors and Gwyneth can’t take things down to the hospital for him. She knows that Meurig will be bored in hospital when he starts to feel better, he is not the kind of man to just sit in bed. She is worried that if he runs out of pyjamas, he won’t want to wear a gown and she doesn’t think that most hospital pyjama sizes will fit him.
- Gwyneth has heard about field hospitals but doesn’t know if Meurig will go there. She has heard that these have large open wards and thinks that Meurig won’t like that as he is a private person.
- Gwyneth and Meurig have been together since they were teenagers, she has been used to being without him because he is a lorry driver. This feels different because she doesn’t know when or if he will come home. She wants to find out how Meurig is but is worried she is being a nuisance phoning up so often. Their 2 sons phone her up every day to check she is OK and she wishes she had more news to tell them. Although she phones Meurig a few times a day, she knows that he won’t want to worry her and is bound to say he is OK. She would like to speak to a doctor or nurse to see how he is really doing.
- Gwyneth is concerned about how she will cope with Meurig when he comes home. She has seen all the television stories about how weak people can be after a coronavirus infection. She knows that she will not be able to lift him and she needs to be sure he can get upstairs safely by himself. She doesn’t know if she will be asked about his discharge or if suddenly he will just arrive on the doorstep by ambulance.
What we did in this kind of situation:
- CHCs across Wales shared information on their websites and social media platforms to help people understand the restrictions on visiting. We asked WG and Health Boards to keep this under review and to bear in mind that some people really did need visits or for someone to be with them.
- CHCs across Wales regularly asked Health Boards about the plans for the use of field hospitals. We told WG and Health Boards that these buildings had been developed in a short time and that there needed to be clarity about what kind of patients were going to be accommodated there.
- HDCHC staff visited unoccupied field hospitals to understand how they were laid out and to try to identify issues that might emerge when people had to occupy these buildings.
- HDCHC wrote to the Health Board about some changes that we felt were needed to some of the local field hospitals to make sure people felt that they were having dignified care.
- HDCHC heard that people were very supportive of the work that went on to develop field hospitals. But as time went on, they couldn’t understand why people with confirmed coronavirus infection couldn’t be cared for in the field hospitals to allow our usual hospital buildings to get back to normal services. We heard from the Health Board about the need for intensive care capacity and use of oxygen for coronavirus patients. We were told that these were things that were best provided in a traditional hospital setting.
- CHCs across Wales asked Health Boards to make contact arrangements clear so that worried families could find out how their loved ones were doing. We asked what telephone number people should contact for updates regarding patients who were in the main hospitals or field hospitals.
- CHCs across Wales asked Health Boards about supplies of personal clothes and toiletries etc, for patients in hospital. We heard about schemes where donations were being made direct to hospitals and where there were designated drop off points where relatives could leave things.
- CHCs identified that patients in hospitals would sometimes be there for reasons other than coronavirus. HDCHC discussed with the Health Board the impact of social distancing on patients and use of communal facilities such as showers. We wanted to make sure that patients in hospital could still have these facilities available to them or whether there would be restrictions in place.
- HDCHC also asked about the requirement for visitors (those that were allowed) to wear face masks. We also asked about people attending outpatient appointments and whether masks would be provided or if people had to supply their own and if these needed to be a particular type as we didn’t want people turning up to hospitals to find that they were not allowed in.
- HDCHC also checked the websites of all the GP practices within the Hywel Dda area to see what information about facemasks was available for patients who had internet access.