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Nightingale Hospital: Nurses vow 'we'll be there in place of patients' relatives... and it will be an honour'

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Nurse Maire McAnaney in one of the new intensive care units designed to treat Covid-19 patients at Belfast City Hospital

Nurse Maire McAnaney in one of the new intensive care units designed to treat Covid-19 patients at Belfast City Hospital

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Nurse Maire McAnaney in one of the new intensive care units designed to treat Covid-19 patients at Belfast City Hospital

Maire McAnaney has more than 20 years' experience working as a nurse, and in her normal job she is a senior nurse working in general surgery, specialising in bowel, oesophageal and liver surgery.

Today, however, she is the nurse heading up one of the newly created intensive care units at Northern Ireland's designated Nightingale Hospital at Belfast City Hospital's tower block.

As the 12-bed unit was unveiled on Tuesday, just hours before the arrival of the first critically ill Covid-19 patients, Maire was remarkably upbeat. With the sun shining in through the windows, the bays of empty beds, and staff sitting around quietly, it was difficult to imagine that in just a few short hours those very same doctors and nurses would be fighting to save peoples' lives and putting their own health at risk in the process.

Yet, that is the reality of what lies ahead for Maire and her colleagues - doctors and nurses battling on the frontline are among the tens of thousands of people around the world who have already lost their lives, and the chances are high that coronavirus will claim some of Northern Ireland's own NHS heroes.

Even with this in mind, the team at Northern Ireland's Nightingale Hospital are determined to provide the very best care possible to the hundreds of people who will come through the doors in the coming weeks.

In fact, it was only when discussing her patients that Maire's cheery demeanour slipped.

Inside Northern Ireland's Nightingale Hospital [Photos] Close

Nurse Marie McNaney showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Nurse Marie McNaney showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Nurse Marie McNaney showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Nurse Marie McNaney showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Dr Paul Glover showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Dr Paul Glover showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Nurse Marie McNaney showing the new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital on April 7th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

With tears in her eyes, she said: "I've never dealt with anything on this scale before.

"In surgery, we deal with a death every couple of weeks but we are anticipating a lot more, it has been harrowing ordering the extra bereavement equipment, such as body bags.

"Realistically, ICU patients aren't going to have their relatives with them at their sickest and weakest point, but we will talk to them, we will say their names, we will hold their hands, and for the patients that won't survive, we will be with them.

"We will be there in the place of their families and it will be an honour."

Belfast Telegraph