Newington Road doctors’ surgery has been closed for a precautionary deep clean after a large number of staff were affected by coronavirus symptoms.
The closure yesterday (April 8) left many residents who needed prescriptions confused as to what to do next.
Owner of the Newington Road Pharmacy Graham Phillips said the situation would affect prescription services at the pharmacy short term but all staff were working on a solution. The pharmacy is open as usual.
Mr Phillips said: “We had vulnerable, elderly and confused patients flooding in asking what was wrong. A couple of admin staff turned up at the surgery but no prescribers.
“The only information was to phone NHS 111 but of course you can’t get through to NHS 111. We had been trying to reassure people but we have had to do that with no communication from the NHS.”
He added that they later were able to get some details, saying: “There’s been a Covid infection at the surgery, a large number of the surgery staff have been taken ill and the surgery is now closed for a deep clean. An emergency visiting service has taken over and as a result we do not know what is happening with prescriptions.”
A further message on the pharmacy facebook page adds: “We are wishing them all the best and praying for a speedy recovery for all staff affected.
“Please be aware this will affect prescriptions for the short term and try to be patient with us and the surgery while we work out the best possible solution for all.”
Mr Phillips iterated support for medical colleagues at the surgery and said the pharmacy has an extremely good working relationship with them. But he says there has been no support from NHS England for pharmacy staff and they have been told they do not need personal protective equipment (PPE) and ‘are not on the frontline.’.
He said: “Our GP colleagues are working extremely hard in difficult circumstances. We are all doing everything to support the vulnerable and elderly in our community.
“But pharmacies have no support, they are not getting PPE and we only have some equipment because a staff member on maternity leave tracked it here and there and I paid for it out of my pocket.
“Obviously people who have been in the surgery have also been in the pharmacy and if my staff become ill they will not be able to serve the Newington and Summerhill community and other pharmacies will not be able to cope with the extra load.”
The Kent & Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, responsible for health services in the county, says Thanet Health CIC is supporting the surgery and helping with prescriptions.
An NHS spokesperson said: “There are currently no appointments taking place at Newington Road Surgery as the premises is undergoing a deep clean. This is necessary after nine staff members were displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and so are currently self-isolating.
“Thanet Health Community Interest Company is supporting the practice by triaging patients by telephone and ensuring that there is no disruption for patients who are due repeat prescriptions.
“If, however, a patient requires a face-to-face appointment, one will be offered with a healthcare professional at the nearby Grange Practice in the Montefiore Centre. Newington Road Surgery is part of the Ramsgate Primary Care Network, which enables surgeries to work more closely together.
“Patients are able to telephone Newington Road Surgery as usual. The surgery is aiming to reopen to patients on Monday, April 13.”
Earlier this week The Isle of Thanet News told how staff at Pierremont Pharmacy in Broadstairs and Newington Pharmacy are at ‘breaking point.
Doc Atherton,Kent Group manager for the community pharmacies run by The Manor Pharmacy Group, said staff have seen a 300% rise on prescription requests as people worry about having adequate supplies and staff shortages as colleagues have to self-isolate.
Staff are working extra hours, between 7am to 11pm, to try and keep on top of demand but are exhausted. They are also having to cope with the needs of patients who previously used their Summerhill pharmacy in Margate Road until it closed at the end of January. The closure was due to being unable to sustain financial losses amid a lack of government support.
The NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group has been contacted for further information.