Borders doctor warns against apathy in fight against coronavirus

A top local consultant has warned Borderers that if they don’t follow government guidelines to stay in their homes during the coronavirus outbreak, NHS Borders will be overwhelmed.

Thursday, 26th March 2020, 3:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th March 2020, 3:03 pm
Graeme Eunson, chairman BMA scotland

Dr Graeme Eunson, consultant paediatrician at Borders General Hospital, and chairman of Scottish Consultant Committee of British Medical Association, today praised staff at the hospital for the way in which they have adjusted to a new way of working.

He said he and his staff are on the front line, looking after patients in the specially-selected covid wards at the hospital, but the people who will ultimately help beat the virus is everyone else, by adhering to government advice and stay at home if at all possible.

His warning comes on a day which has seen the highest rise in Borderers who have tested positive for covid-19. That number now stands at 23 — a rise of eight from yesterday.

The number of patients in Scotland who had the virus is now at 25, up from 22 yesterday.

Dr Eunson, who currently works from 9am-5pm at the special covid-19 “community hub” at the hospital before then working another five hours in paediatric services, and being on call overnight, told the Southern: “This has all come around quite suddenly and there are big changes in the way we work.

“But it has been amazing how quickly all the staff at NHS Borders, from the front door through to the highest level of the management team, have just got on with it.

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“We are here at the front line, but the real front line that is going to make the biggest difference is people at home keeping off the streets and reducing the transmission rate so that the spread of the virus does not get out of hand.

“Then, with the plans we have put in place, we will be able to look after the cases coming through without becoming overwhelmed.

“We haven’t seen the big rise in covid in the Borders yet, but it will come if we do not follow this advice.

“We can’t pretend this is a safe, little country community where this isn’t going to happen to us.

“That’s the sort of thinking that will be likely to ensure things run out of control.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility … we’re all on the front line.

“For some people, the symptoms are mild, and you may have it without knowing it. That’s why everyone should be following the advice to stay at home if at all possible so it is not spread to others, for whom the symptoms may not be mild at all.”

Dr Eunson said that the best way to make sure the Borders comes through the pandemic is to wash your hands routinely and follow advice to stay at home.

He added: “This is the key message. The only way we are going to get through this, is that everyone takes this advice seriously, to put in place protective isolation and shielding of our most vulnerable people.

“If the transmission of the virus is not kept in check, that is when your health service will become overwhelmed.

“But if we keep the transmission rate as low as possible, then the plans we have put in place should hopefully allow us to deliver the care that is needed to all the people in the Borders.”

He said Borderers, as a whole, do seem to be getting better at taking the advice to heart.

He said: “When it all started, you could still see people walking up and down the region’s streets as usual, but with each passing day, we are starting to see that people are getting the message.”

NHS Borders is not, as yet, testing people for coronavirus unless they are being treated in the hospital.

Dr Eunson said: “Currently, the priority is to test patients who need to be admitted to hospital, so that we can identify the ones who do have covid and we can ensure they are being isolated and being kept away from the general patients.

“Then, the second priority is for key workers and their families, so that we are not needing to unneccessarily self-isolate.

“If my son was showing symptoms, I would need to self-isolate for up to two weeks to keep my colleagues safe, but if we can find that he’s just got the common cold, then that would mean that I can get back on the wards looking after the patients needing care.

“We need to ensure that staff on the front line are able to be there when needed.

“It may be at some point we can roll out testing for the general public, but right now these are the priorites.”