COVID cases at Western Isles Hospital as health workers in Scotland call for return of face mask guidance

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A hospital ward has been put on lockdown following a COVID outbreak.

It comes as doctors in Scotland have warned the decision to remove face mask guidance in healthcare settings is “playing Russian roulette” with staff and patients’ welfare.

Medical Ward 1 within Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway has been closed to new admissions to prevent further spread of the virus.

NHS Western Isles said exceptions will be made for those requiring admission to the high-dependency unit and paediatric patients.

The health board said it sprang into action after a number of positive COVID cases were linked to the ward.

A spokesperson said: “An incident management team has been established to ensure all necessary measures are in place to prevent further spread of the virus within the ward.”

Temporary visiting restrictions have been implemented, with only one designated visitor per patient permitted daily.

Visitors must wear a face mask.

The health board added: “Please do not visit under any circumstances if you develop symptoms.”

COVID cases at Western Isles Hospital as health workers in Scotland call for return of face mask guidance
File pic

In May, official Scottish government guidance on wearing face coverings in hospitals, dentists and GP surgeries was withdrawn having been in place since June 2020.

The decision was taken after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID was no longer a global emergency.

Doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland condemned the decision at the time.

And now, the Scottish Healthcare Workers Coalition has written to ministers to highlight the “very serious flaws” in changing the guidance and is demanding its reintroduction.

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Dr Amy Small spent six months unable to work at all with long COVID and lost her GP partnership in the process

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Ministers have been told that healthcare workers are at significantly higher risk of contracting the virus, with the signatories being healthcare workers who have developed post-COVID chronic illnesses.

As well as the reintroduction of masks in all health and social care settings, the coalition is calling for a commitment to improving ventilation and air filtration as a matter of urgency.

David Osborn, a chartered safety and health practitioner, said: “It is unclear that any health and safety risk assessment was undertaken by the Scottish government before making their decision to abandon universal masking which is viewed by some patients as playing Russian roulette with their health.”

The Scottish government said the guidance was withdrawn as the country had entered a “calmer phase of the pandemic”.

A Scottish government spokesperson added: “Any change to the extended use of face masks and face coverings guidance is in relation to the latest scientific evidence and is continually under review.

“The removal of this extended guidance does not stop or prevent staff, service users or visitors from wearing a mask.”

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