GASTROENTERITIS has caused the quarantining of a second Launceston General Hospital ward in as many weeks.
The hospital's Dr Katie Flanagan said that a decision was made to quarantine the second ward as staff battled to contain the highly contagious norovirus responsible for spreading the diarrhoea and vomiting-inducing illness.
Rehabilitation ward 3R yesterday joined medical ward 6D as being closed to new admissions, leaving 17 of the ward's 58 beds lying idle.
Dr Flanagan said that there were eight suspected cases of gastroenteritis on 3R and 10 on 6D.
``We've been working very hard over the past week to try to contain it _ we had thought we had contained it to one ward over the weekend, but it now seems, in the past 24 hours, a second ward is affected so we made the decision to close (the second ward),'' Dr Flanagan said.
``We don't know where it came from, but it's causing us a lot of trouble.
``What we'd really like to say to the community is that if you can really avoid visiting the hospital if possible, that will help us to contain this very infectious virus.
``And if anyone has diarrhoea and vomiting, but is not really sick, we'd urge them to stay at home _ symptoms should subside within 24-48 hours, but people are still infectious for another 48 hours.''
Dr Flanagan said that people should wash their hands with soap and water after going to the toilet and before preparing food, as the norovirus did not respond very well to alcohol handwash.
Acting executive director of nursing Lee Wallace said that she had worked at the hospital since the 1980s and had never before seen two wards closed because of a gastroenteritis infection.
``Having two wards closed has reduced our ability to accept patients into those wards and affects patients' ability to be discharged, causing a flow-on effect to areas like the emergency department,'' Ms Wallace said.
``Six beds in 3R and 11 in 6D are empty and patients who would normally be admitted (to the hospital) are actually waiting in the emergency department, putting added pressure into that area and the longer the wards are closed, the more impact that will have.
``It's also impacting on our staff and we're relying on our staff's goodwill to continue supporting the rest of the hospital.''
Ms Wallace emphasised that people should only visit the hospital if such visits were necessary and to wash their hands thoroughly before and after any visit.