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Icy falls push hospital workers to the limit

PUBLISHED: 16:27 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 09:54 12 August 2010

SNOW SMILE: A cheery snowman in Beckenham.

SNOW SMILE: A cheery snowman in Beckenham.

HOSPITAL workers were pushed to the limit this week as a dramatic rise in patients with broken bones were admitted, amid fears that salt bins, used

HOSPITAL workers were pushed to the limit this week as a dramatic rise in patients with broken bones were admitted, amid fears that salt bins, used for gritting paths, are being raided for their salt and sold by unscrupulous gangs.

Queen Mary's in Sidcup, Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich all had a dramatic rise in A&E patients as icy conditions have led to more falls and accidents.

Demand for X-rays has doubled at Queen Mary's and fracture clinics at all sites are fully booked, with extra clinics being put on.

Bosses warned if emergencies rise significantly, they may have to start shifting some resources from non-emergency units. The upsurge comes as Bexley council chiefs fear that their salt bins are being raided by yobs hell-bent on making a quick buck as depleted stocks nationwide push the price through the roof.

Councillor for the environment, Gareth Bacon, said: "We are happy for community-minded people to use the salt to keep public areas clear of ice and snow.

"But we are concerned that the salt is being stolen in bulk and then sold commercially, which makes it much more difficult for us to keep the footways safe for local people."

Meanwhile, health care staff were praised for battling through the icy conditions to keep emergency services running.

South London Healthcare boss, Dr Chris Streather, sent a letter to 6,000 staff which said: "Once again, I want to thank all staff for their efforts during the snow and ice over the last couple of days and for helping make sure that our patients haven't been disrupted too much and that we have been able to handle the inevitable rise in demand.

"I said this before Christmas but I'll say it again, that the commitment and dedication to the community that comes with working for the NHS really puts itself on public show in the best possible way in situations like this."

Security guard at Princess Royal, Alex Twiddle, spent a day digging people's cars out for them to drive home.

A&E doctor Jarek Nawacki's journey to work for his night shift took twice as long as he hit a road sign on route. Sheila Bond, a midwife needed two buses to get to Mottingham to run a midwifery clinic there.

Non-emergency services have not been cancelled due to cold weather conditions although the situation is being continually reviewed.

Sites are having daily snow contingency meetings where everything is looked at, including staffing levels and on site gritting. Up to 180 tonnes of rock salt per day is being applied to Bexley borough's main road network.

Bromley council said it had been working "round the clock" for the past 10 days to spread hundreds of tonnes of grit. A spokesperson said the council was not aware of any theft of salt as experienced by Bexley council. Salt costs around £20 to £30 per tonne but once bagged up and sold to residents can be worth much more.

A spokesman for Bexley council said it had "satisfactory" stocks of salt and is continuing to deliver salt in key locations, but it has decided not to refill the bins for the time being to prevent further theft.

For the latest information, visit the council's website at www.bexley.gov.uk or www.bromley.gov.uk.

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