Thousands besiege Aids alert hospital

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THOUSANDS of women anxious that they might have the Aids virus telephoned or arrived at a hospital in Kent yesterday after the announcement that a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician was HIV positive.

All Saints Hospital, Chatham, was receiving more than six calls a minute yesterday morning after 40 lines were staffed by 60 counsellors and health workers.

Throughout the day they received 3,500 calls, 80 women turned up for advice and reassurance and 76 decided to have HIV blood tests.

At a private hospital where the consultant also worked, 2,500 calls were received, many from people who had not been treated by him.

Medway Health Authority announced on Saturday that Terence (Tim) Shuttleworth, director of gynaecology and obstetrics at All Saints, had been diagnosed as HIV positive.

Since joining the health authority 10 years ago he is estimated to have treated 17,000 women and operated on 6,000 of them.

As it is not known when Mr Shuttleworth, believed to be in his fifties, became infected or how, the authority has had to assume that the risk could go back to when he arrived - and when HIV was first seen in the UK.

Results of the first blood tests should be known within 24 hours.

The authority's director of public health, Dr Ann Palmer, said the risk to Mr Shuttleworth's patients was no more than theoretical. 'There is a lot of anxiety around but there is no evidence that any patient has ever contracted HIV from an infected doctor or health care worker,' she told a news conference.

The only slight risk was in cases where the doctor had performed invasive surgery such as caesarean sections or hysterectomies. In most normal births there was no risk at all, she said.

Dr Palmer emphasised that if any test proved positive it would not necessarily mean the virus had been contracted from him.

The hospital is considering reducing some clinics and operations because of the volume of calls, but it will be running normally today.

Ken Hesketh, Medway Health Authority's district general manager, appealed to women having difficulty in contacting the helplines to be patient.

Mr Shuttleworth also worked at the Alexandra Hospital, near Chatham, which is a private hospital, and occasionally did emergency work at Medway Hospital, near Chatham.

Telephone helplines: 0634 818363; 0634 814401; 0634 818272; 0634 813440. For the Alexandra Hospital: 0634 687166.

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