Nearly half of all wards at Raigmore Hospital are now under quarantine amidst a growing norovirus outbreak.
NHS Highland has placed a temporary suspension on admissions to four wards and to visiting across a major part of the hospital estate.
Scores of patients are now being kept away from visitors to prevent further spread of the bug.
With a fourth ward closure announced yesterday, that leaves 40% of the hospital’s wards out-of-bounds.
At least four patients have been confirmed as suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting in the latest ward closure.
Wards 2C and 6C were closed to new admissions and visitors on Wednesday when other patients were struck by norovirus. The closure of ward 7A followed on Thursday.
NHS Highland consultant microbiologist Vanda Plecko said: “We can confirm that a number of patients have tested positive for norovirus.
“We have placed a suspension on visiting in Wards 2C, 6C, 7A and now 2A for the time being.”
Visiting restrictions to the rest of the hospital have also been put in place, with Dr Plecko stating: “In the wards not affected we ask that visiting is restricted to two visitors per patient and would once again request that children do not visit the hospital.
“We would ask that anyone coming into the hospital needs to be clear of any norovirus symptoms for at least 48 hours. By doing this we will limit the spread as much as possible.”
The closures have been put in place to allow medical staff to deal with suffering patients and prevent the spread of the virus to other areas of the hospital.
They come just weeks after the hospital cancelled 500 operations due to dust contamination and cracks in the theatre walls.
There have also been other ward closures in recent months because of norovirus.
Councillor Ian Brown, for Inverness Millburn, which covers Raigmore, said the only remedy to solve the issue was time, adding: “Again it’s still very disappointing for the patients having to go through this and having visiting restricted again.
“Visitors are the best remedy for a patient’s recovery.
“Once they find there is a problem, everything is basically shut down.
“Signs are being put out at the front of the hospital so they know to wash their hands.
“It’s very disappointing but let’s hope it has been caught and we begin to see improvements from now on.”
Highland and Islands MSP David Stewart said: “Clearly this is a very worrying bug for vulnerable patients. It’s obviously a sensible precaution to avoid having visitors in affected wards.
“Let’s hope this gets dealt with. It can really affect more vulnerable visitors and the general public and we hope to get it resolved.
“I will definitely be raising this with the chief executive when I see them in a few weeks’ time.”