Yesterday, I was in the College for the last time for what could be a while, collecting my last few belongings and working with Anthony Oxford, CEO to close down the buildings. It was sad to see the construction team working on our 10 Hill Place Hotel development, downing tools. More about the Hotel later.
Logistics and Technology
I am really proud of all of our workforce for adapting to the rapid change in circumstances of how we all deliver for the College in these difficult circumstances. Last week, we made the decision that the College would need to close in order to protect our staff, as well as our families, friends and loved ones. The decision was nevertheless difficult. The logistics of giving upwards of 150 of our staff simultaneous access to our servers in order to continue seamless working has been hard work and a lot of effort for our technical team.
Kenny Ryan and his IT team have worked hugely long hours over the last week to deliver this. I recently visited the “nerve centre” with Tony Oxford and Kenny Ryan. It was quite an experience. For someone as illiterate to IT demands as I am, it was a privilege to see how all of this had come about and how we were able to increase the number of our workforce able to log in remotely and meet with each other over video conferencing. I actually watched on screen as the numbers logging in rose from 31 up to 100 in front of my eyes. It is all still a wonder to me but I am grateful to the team for working so quickly to put this in place.
Offering our Hotel to NHS Staff
Last week I reached out to Catherine Calderwood, CMO Scotland, one of our Fellows and a dear friend of the College, to offer our Hotel, 10 Hill Place as a respite for any NHS staff who needed it. I am proud to say that the Hotel is now welcoming healthcare professionals with over 40 rooms being used by doctors and other healthcare professionals who are finding it difficult to travel on public transport, or who want to separate themselves from their family at this difficult time. Our Hotel is very central in Edinburgh and from here they can easily reach Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Western General to get them back to caring for the sick. Scott Mitchell, MD of Surgeons Quarter has also laid on a hot meal for each of them when they come in from work. It feels like a real family effort and a home from home for our front line NHS staff.
The challenges for our staff of the Hotel are significant. Providing food, sustenance and safe haven for those who are destined to look after the people of Edinburgh and beyond who may suffer from Covid 19 is not without its challenges. We are making sure that they follow all the hygiene protocols to keep themselves and our special guests safe. Indeed, all of us will end up knowing someone close who has been infected with the virus or even fallen victim. The commitment from all of our staff whether in the Hotel or College has been magnificent and I am really proud of all of them.
Last night’s news of more stringent measures to keep us separated, while welcome, has been disappointing in part, as it highlights our nation’s failure to adhere to the Government guidelines of minimising social contact. We saw on the news the packed underground carriages in London. There were images of people gathering, drinking and eating in various places around the capital and in Birmingham. These images are deeply troubling because the capacity to allow this virus to spread amongst those gatherings is huge. I know that many intensive care units are completely full in the Capital and equally at the University Hospital Birmingham. They are at present starting to ventilate patients in theatres and in recovery. More and more individuals in the United Kingdom are dying with a diagnosis of Coronavirus.
I have to reiterate the plea for social distancing and emphasise that isolation of high-risk individuals is absolutely paramount to minimising the spread of this disease.
Volunteers and Retirees
The secretary of state for health Matt Hancock announced last night that he was looking for 250,000 volunteers for NHS support. I am certain he will get them. He also announced that over 11,500 healthcare workers including doctors and nurses had come out of retirement to offer their services to the NHS. I know that many of our Fellows and Senior Fellows, in particular, have been amongst them. Something else about which we can all be proud.
Whilst the number of documented cases of COVID-19 rises significantly at present the overall numbers are difficult to interpret and should be looked at with extreme caution. The number of cases identified depends on the number of cases that are tested and these differ widely between all of the countries and are therefore not comparable. The mortality numbers are increasing at an alarming rate and our trajectory continues to be a real concern. At present, the outbreak appears to mirror that in Italy but we hope that with these new measures the curves related to the numbers will start to diverge. The next few days will determine whether this is the case.
There is much to be proud of as I have described but there is still much that we all can do to minimise the effect on our community. Please remain safe by keeping your distance and staying inside.
I look forward to speaking to you tomorrow.
Professor S Michael Griffin OBE PRCSEd MD FFSTEd FRCS(Eng) FRCP&SGlas Hon) FRCSI(Hon)FCSHK FCSSL(Hon)