ST HELENS and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s chief executive has revealed the moment she was told the “Covid time bomb” had exploded at Whiston Hospital.

Staff have been battling a second wave of coronavirus patients for the past two months, with admissions starting to fall after plateauing in recent weeks.

The dreaded second wave came sooner than expected, which meant staff were barely granted any reprieve, the first onslaught fresh in their memories.

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Ann Marr, chief executive of the trust, has spoken of the fear that took hold in March as they waited for the pandemic to truly arrive.

“If you can imagine, we were all watching on television, first of all what was happening in Italy and then what was happening in London, and seeing particularly how the intensive care units were becoming overwhelmed really quickly,” Ms Marr told the People’s Board last week.

“And just imagining what that was going to be like when that was our intensive care unit.

“I can’t tell you how frightening a prospect that was and how worrying it was.”

St Helens Star: Ann Marr, chief executive of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS TrustAnn Marr, chief executive of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Ms Marr, who was awarded an OBE for services to the NHS in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, said the pandemic became “real” on the morning of March 30.

At 4.45am on that Monday morning, she received an email from the consultant on call at Whiston Hospital’s intensive therapy unit (ITU).

The consultant spoke of their pride as staff had been “thrown into the deep end” following an influx of Covid patients to ITU, the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“Dear Ann, I’m just finishing the weekend night shift and we have had unprecedented numbers of cases who’ve just been incubated and ventilated on ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit),” the email said.

“The Covid time bomb has well and truly exploded at Whiston this weekend. We have worked above and beyond our capacity, and I write to inform you of how proud I am on my theatre team, as the consultant on call for anaesthetics.

“The ODPs (operating department practitioners) and recovery nurses have been thrown into the deep end and have suddenly become ITU nurses without any formal training.

“The anaesthetists and the intensivists are working as one team despite dealing with a disease that can potentially take away our lives, as has happened to our colleagues elsewhere in the country.

“I am sure you will be proud of how we have dealt with this crisis this weekend and I promise you we will keep fighting the onslaught.

“I thought I should tell you as our CEO because I am exhausted, anxious, yet humbled by the way our staff are working.”

Exhausted staff battled on through the summer to fight off the first wave, which took the lives of more than 200 people in the first three months alone.

In April, staff were dealt a crushing blow when the much-loved orthopaedic surgeon Sadeq Elhowsh died following a battle with Covid-19.

St Helens Star: Sadeq Elhowsh died in April Sadeq Elhowsh died in April

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Ms Marr also revealed that another member of staff fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic this month.

Joseph Fairclough, a shuttle bus driver for the trust, passed away at Whiston Hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Since the start of the pandemic, 335 people have died at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust after contracting coronavirus.