THE chief executive of University Hospitals Dorset says she is upset and frustrated by unvaccinated Covid patients who are taking up valuable intensive care beds in Poole and Bournemouth.

Debbie Fleming told the Echo: "We have to keep trying to educate those who won't get vaccinated based on misinformation. People must understand the consequences of their decision on others, perhaps even including their own family members."

As of Thursday, 16 ICU beds across the two sites were taken up by Covid patients, most have not been jabbed.

Mrs Fleming said: "I find it upsetting and frustrating that they have made that choice. It has a big impact on all our services. I wish people would think about that and about the health needs of others, sometimes very serious needs, including cardiac and cancer treatment."

She added: "I urge people, get a vaccine. This issue is a real worry."

Bournemouth Echo: A&E at Royal Bournemouth HospitalA&E at Royal Bournemouth Hospital

Nevertheless, all patients, vaccinated or not would get the optimum care, she stressed.

Mrs Fleming was speaking the day after UHD, which runs Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch hospitals, became the latest hospital trust in England to declare a critical incident because of a range of pressures, including staff shortages, lack of bed capacity, volume of patients and rising Covid infections.

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The critical incident status was stood down later on Thursday afternoon.

But as of now, there are a staggering 200 beds taken up by patients who are medically fit for discharge but there is nowhere for them to go in the crisis-hit social care system.

This is up one third on the 150 just before Christmas.

Bournemouth Echo: Clinical staff wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they care for a patient at the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 5, 2020. NHS staff wear an enhanced level of PPE in higher risk

The critical incident status means the hospital is run through one centralised command and control system.

There may be several such declarations at UHD in the coming weeks as the hospitals work through the surge.

Hospital bosses are looking at the peak of demand arriving in the middle of the month.

Mrs Fleming added: "People should not be frightened by the phrase critical incident. It's an acknowledgement that we are not able to maintain the usual level of services. Where we are now is beyond normal."

But she stressed the hospitals, despite having to cancel some routine operations, were still maintaining most urgent and emergency services.

And she issued a plea to frustrated patients to be kind and courteous to staff who were working under intense pressure.

"We do not want people being nasty and aggressive," she said. "I am very proud of the staff and everything they do."

Some administration staff, including in IT and finance are already volunteering for general frontline duties such as answering the phones, moving beds around and meal deliveries.

"We don't think we have seen the worst of this yet but we are preparing for it while at the same time hoping for the best."