NHS Highland has restricted visiting at three more of its hospitals to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
From today, only essential visitors will be allowed in Caithness General Hospital in Wick, Belford Hospital in Fort William and Lorn and Isles Hospital in Oban.
The health board has made the decision to impose the new restrictions in light of the rising number of Covid cases, which has had a direct impact on staffing levels.
It comes just days after NHS Highland revealed that almost half of NHS care homes in the Highlands are closed due to the recent increase in the spread of the virus.
Last week, the health board restricted visiting in two Inverness hospitals – Raigmore and New Craigs – in an attempt to curb the spread to patients and staff.
NHS Western Isles has also limited visiting at all of its facilities, with people only allowed to visit end of life patients, birth partners, children, or those with acute mental health issues and dementia.
Best chance to protect patients and staff
NHS Highland acute chief officer, Katherine Sutton, said the move has been introduced with the hope to reduce the risk of new infection coming into the facilities.
She said: “We continue to see an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in our communities and this is having a direct impact on our staffing levels. This means we are at risk of being unable to deliver services across our acute hospital sites.
“We have worked closely with our colleagues in infection control and we believe restricting visiting will help reduce the risk of introducing infection from the local community into our hospitals, and give us the best chance to protect our patients and staff.
“We understand that this decision will cause anxiety for our patients, families and staff, however we believe the move to essential visiting across the hospitals will help us reduce the spread of the virus into our hospitals.
“We are grateful to the public for their ongoing co-operation and understanding.”
Essential visitors should follow national guidance and take a lateral flow test prior to making the arrangements for visiting their loved ones.
They have also been asked to contact the hospital ward they intend to visit in advance to discuss all of the necessary safety measures with a member of staff.