THE number of coronavirus patients at Dorset County Hospital are beginning to fall, but its Intensive Care Unit remains busy.

Professor Alastair Hutchison, chief medical officer at Dorset County Hospital, shared the update after the hospital saw its ‘peak’ of patients during January.

Coronavirus cases across Dorset have continued to decrease during the third national lockdown and have fallen to pre-lockdown levels.

The Dorchester hospital however remains busy with a mixture of patients with Covid-19 and other medical conditions.

Speaking to Dorset Echo, Prof Hutchison said the number of coronavirus patients during this wave was ‘more than four times as many patients in wave one’ and caused staff to create new ICU beds.

Prof Hutchison explained the hospital usually has eight mixed beds and was expanded to 16 mixed beds during January.

He said: “In the first wave, the maximum number of patients in anyone day was 21.

“Whereas in the recent three weeks, we reached a maximum of 91 patients, and that was on January 17-18.

“That is more than four times as many patients in wave one and the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit has increased. This was a combination of Covid and non-Covid patients, but we have had to increase the Intensive Care Unit.

“That has put a lot of strain on the nursing staff who have done a great job in maximising those beds.”

Despite the high numbers of coronavirus patients at Dorset County Hospital, this has begun to fall in recent weeks.

But Prof Hutchison strongly advised people to continue to follow social distancing measures in a bid to reduce transmission of coronavirus and protect those most vulnerable from being infected.

Coronavirus patients in the hospital are ‘predominately elderly people’ but he noted younger people ‘aren’t immune’ to Covid-19.

Prof Hutchison said: “The numbers are now coming down. Our total number was 59 on Wednesday but our Intensive Care Unit remains full and only about half of those patients have Covid.

“The other half are ones with other conditions. The age range who are really ill are mostly of the same age, mostly those over 70.

“We have had a small amount of people in the 30s age group.”

Prof Hutchison also confirmed that Dorset County Hospital had not transferred patients to Exeter’s Nightingale Hospital.

He however visited the Nightingale Hospital as part of a fact-finding mission in case Dorset County Hospital needed to transfer any coronavirus patients.

Prof Hutchison said: “I went to the Nightingale Hospital to see it and meet the people involved as I expected it might be necessary that we might need to do it.

“I thought visiting the hospital would be a good idea.

“It is different in that it is not set up at the moment to take sickest patients who require ventilation, but it is set up to look after people who are one step in that process, namely needing medical treatment but not needing ventilation.”

Prof Hutchison has been ‘highly impressed’ by his staff members who have been ‘fantastic’ during the ever-changing pandemic. He also admired their emotional resilience as they continue to deal with deaths of numerous patients.

Prof Hutchison said: “The staff in general have been fantastic in what they’re doing.

“They increased their hours, taken on roles they didn’t think they would do, came up with new ways of managing coronavirus and worked really hard to enable the hospital to treat as many as those who come through the doors.

“We have busy as other hospitals and I have been highly impressed by the staff.”