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Belfast's Ramada Hotel transformed to aid coronavirus fight

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The Ramada Hotel in Belfast city centre which will act as a Community Step Down Centre alongside hospitals in Northern Ireland

The Ramada Hotel in Belfast city centre which will act as a Community Step Down Centre alongside hospitals in Northern Ireland

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

The Ramada Hotel in Belfast city centre which will act as a Community Step Down Centre alongside hospitals in Northern Ireland

A hotel in Belfast is being transformed so it can care for up to 150 recovering coronavirus patients.

The Ramada by Wyndham hotel in Talbot Street in the city centre will be used as a "step down" hospital facility for patients, who could arrive as soon as tomorrow. .

Patients recovering from Covid-19 will be discharged from hospital and moved there as part of plans to deal with an upsurge in expected number of people diagnosed in the coming days.

Northern Ireland is already in the predicted 'surge' period, which is expected to last until around April 20.

The move - a partnership between the Belfast Trust and the private provider Healthcare Ireland - aims to alleviate the strain on hospitals. It will be open for the next three months, although it may continue in the role if circumstances demand.

"As patients become medically fit, they'll need to leave hospital quickly in order to offer other patients to be admitted," Natalie Magee from the Belfast Trust told the BBC.

"So having this facility will allow us to bring patients out of hospital but where they still need care, we will provide that care and that rehabilitation."

Signs reading: 'Healthcare Ireland joint partnership with Belfast Trust - Community Step Down Centre' were seen at the entrance to the 165 bed hotel as workers wearing face masks brought in beds and furniture through doors normally reserved for tourists.

Inside, corridors were lined with hygienic plastic sheeting as work on the transformation continues.

Stormont will be paying for the costs of the lease and staff, with a commercial arrangement in place. Healthcare Ireland chief executive Gilbert Yates told BBC Newsline the focus was reliving pressures on hospitals.

"As a care home operator, we're suffering greatly throughout Covid-19. Our relatives, our families and our staff as well, so we're trying to help where we can," he said.

Belfast Telegraph