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Belfast City Hospital to become Northern Ireland's first Nightingale facility to cope with coronavirus surge

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City Hospital

Belfast City Hospital's tower block will be Northern Ireland's first Nightingale Hospital for the anticipated surge of Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care in the weeks ahead.

It will have beds for 230 patients and be staffed by a team drawn from across Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said.

Surge plans will also see a boost to the critical care capacity at Altnagelvin and Ulster Hospital.

Establishing this Nightingale facility will require significant temporary reconfiguration of existing critical care provision across our hospital network, the Department said.

Work is in motion to make necessary infrastructure alterations within the tower block.

Some current non-Covid patients in the tower block will be moved to receive their care elsewhere.

The Department is continuing to assess the potential of the Eikon Centre at Balmoral Park - on the former Maze Prison site -as a second Nightingale facility to further increase bed capacity later this year in preparation for a second wave of coronavirus.

At present the Mater Hospital in north Belfast is taking the city's coronavirus patients.

The Department confirmed last night that Northern Ireland's health system has now increased its ventilator total to 165. Further orders are in place and being actively progressed. The surge planning is being informed by the Covid-19 modelling made public by the Department.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: "It is important to emphasise again that this modelling work is not a prediction or forecast.

"All modelling necessarily carries a level of uncertainty. It is therefore prudent to plan for a scenario beyond the reasonable worst case. That is what we are doing.

"The best way to ensure our health service can cope remains for everyone to stick firmly to the social distancing measures now in place. That message cannot be repeated too frequently or too forcibly."

Staff will be briefed by their respective Trust management, ahead of reconfiguration plans being made public.

Mr Swann added: "I fully recognise the challenges these emergency arrangements will present for staff, with new ways of working and in many cases a new workplace location.

"I am determined that we will do everything possible to support them and their colleagues across the HSC as they take on the many challenges that Covid-19 brings. We owe them all a debt that can never be repaid.

"I also give a commitment that trade unions will be kept informed as the plan is rolled out."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that more than 16,000 members of staff could be needed to run London's new NHS Nightingale Hospital to treat coronavirus patients should it reach full capacity.

The new 4,000-bed temporary facility at the ExCel convention centre in east London is due to open this week despite building work only starting last Wednesday.

Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the Nightingale will become one of the biggest hospitals in the world, according to its chief operating officer Natalie Forrest. The facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units (ICU) across London.

Belfast Telegraph