Salmond gives pledge on BGH sickness bug

Borders General Hospital near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.
Borders General Hospital near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

The region’s top doctor has refuted any picture being painted of the BGH as a hospital struggling with one long norovirus outbreak.

NHS Borders medical director Dr Sheena MacDonald was responding after fears about the BGH’s long-running difficulties with the sickness bug were raised last week in the Scottish Parliament by local MSP Christine Grahame.

Ms Grahame reminded the parliament she first voiced concern about the norovirus outbreak back in January.

“Three months down the line that outbreak remains,” she said, asking First Minister Alex Salmond if he shared concerns about what appeared a “great delay” in resolving the situation.

As a result, Mr Salmond, who said he shared Ms Grahame’s worries, promised the involvement of health secretary Alex Neil.

However, Dr MacDonald says the BGH has not experienced a single, long outbreak.

She told us: “Christine Grahame’s statement in parliament implied there has been one long outbreak in Borders General Hospital for a protracted period. In fact, this is not the case.

“What we have experienced is individual outbreaks affecting different wards at different times, with repeated reintroduction of norovirus to the hospital. We are still in norovirus season and there has locally been a large amount of norovirus in the community.

“Norovirus has been described as the perfect pathogen because of its low infectious dose, lack of any warning about symptoms, lack of any lasting immunity, effects which can contaminate a wide area and its ability to survive in the environment for long periods.

“Health Protection Scotland does not consider the impact of norovirus in the Borders this year to be unusual compared with previous years.

“We apply strict infection- control measures to minimise transmission, whilst still delivering excellent care for our patients. This has included a high-profile media campaign to discourage visiting and inform the public on precautions they can take.

“The care of patients is paramount and the board is working very closely alongside the infection-prevention and control team to resolve the issue at the earliest opportunity.”