A new 400-bed medical facility which will treat patients recovering from Covid-19 is set to open its doors on Friday.
The Lakeside Wing at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), which was built with £33m of Welsh Government funding, will help patients rehabilitate following serious illness with the virus.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board confirmed the first 166 beds are now available in the ‘northern wing’ of the temporary site and will be staffed byphysiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, healthcare support workers and registered nurses.
The coronavirus surge facility, which started being built on September 12, aims to take pressure off the main UHW site which will focus on treating the most acutely unwell patients.
Len Richards, chief executive of Cardiff and Vale UHB, said: “This facility is for when we have exhausted our current bed capacity. If there is a surge in demand as a result of Covid then we will see those patients here.
“We are coping within our main core bed base at the moment. We have got about 100 Covid-positive patients in the main hospital which has remained stable over the past few weeks, but we know from the first wave of the pandemic that things can change very quickly.”
The U-shaped “modular” building was created following a joint decision between the health board, WRU and Welsh Government to decommission the use of the Principality Stadium as a field hospital.
The health board expects the Lakeside Wing, constructed byDarwin Group, to be completed by early February 2021 when it will accommodate the rest of the 400 hospital beds.
Mr Richards added: “To have the first 166 beds available to accept step-down patients from this week demonstrates the hard work and determination that our contractors and colleagues have given to make this achievable.
“We encourage everyone to continue to comply with social distancing, regularly wash their hands and keep wearing a face covering to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the hope that we do not have to utilise our additional surge capacity.
“However, as we face a challenging winter and grapple with the second peak of the pandemic, our patients and the public can be safe in the knowledge that the UHW Lakeside Wing is ready in case we need it.”
Rebecca Aylward, director of nursing for the medicine clinical board, said a multi-disciplinary approach at the Lakeside Wing will allow Covid patients to recover and be discharged more quickly.
“Everybody thinks about the acute phase of care where medical intervention is vital, but when patients start to recover it’s arguably when they need the most support,” she said.
“They need to gain their confidence back and that reassurance in their ability that it’s be okay to go home and mobilise around their house. That’s a fundamental part of care that this facility is going to be able to provide.
“If we don’t offer that rehabilitative model, these patients could go home, not have the confidence to manage and then end up back in hospital again.”
She added that beds will be phased in 28 at a time, with the appropriate staffing to go alongside it.
“The facility is built to a really high standard which will be excellent for rehabilitative care,” she said.
“It’s a light, airy atmosphere, there’s a lot more space and I think it will give a boost to staff as it is a really good environment in which to work.”
The project is believed to be the fastest ever delivery of a large building, under 10,000 square metres, for clinical or education use across the UK to date.
Geoff Walsh, the director of capital, estates and facilities, said getting the facility ready was a “massive undertaking for all involved”.
“We brought together a team who were like-minded, knew the challenge ahead and dug in to get it done within time and budget,” he said.
“The contractor has been totally committed, working 24-7 to mitigate any issues we faced and peaking at around 270-plus staff on site at one time.
“It’s such a fabulous achievement. In my 30-plus years in estates in the NHS, I’ve never done anything as big and as quickly as this and to this standard.”