Work has started on transforming two key sites in the Swansea Bay area into field hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up to temporary 1,340 beds could be available if needed in the weeks ahead. They will be situated at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport and Bay Studios in Fabian Way, and will be in addition to extra beds created in Morriston, Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals, as outpatients and other clinical and public areas are redesigned.
The public, health and private sector, along with further education, are working closely together in an unprecedented response aimed at safeguarding the health and wellbeing of people living in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
It is designed to ensure the NHS can cope with whatever demands it needs to meet in the weeks ahead.
The NPTC Group of Colleges, which runs the Llandarcy Academy of Sport, has offered its premises for use as a field hospital, and work has now started to transform it as a space for 340 hospital beds.
Contractors Andrew Scott will be providing new flooring in the covered area and building cubicles for the beds, along with installing the necessary services. Work is expected to be completed within three to four weeks.
Privately-owned Bay Studios in Fabian Way has the potential for 1,000 beds if needed, but these are expected to come on line after Llandarcy’s. Initial work at Bay Studios will include improving services infrastructure, including power, plumbing and heating before bed cubicles are installed, and is expected to begin later this week.
Swansea Council and Neath Port Talbot Council are managing and overseeing construction work at both field hospital sites, allowing Swansea Bay University Health Board staff to concentrate on planning the expansion of its services, staffing, and dealing with other COVID-19 health issues.
The Team Swansea Bay response to COVID-19 is also being supported by military personnel via the Assistance from the Military Aid to Civil Authorities scheme.
As the COVID-19 challenge increases, patients will be managed as far as possible within the existing Swansea Bay UHB hospitals and community settings, where a huge amount of preparatory work has been underway for weeks, including building work, staff training and expansion of community capacity.
Extra beds will also be available in our existing hospitals. In Morriston Hospital the outpatients area will be used as temporary ward space, as will areas of Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
The transition hospital beds set up in Llandarcy will then be deployed as needed, for a mixture of COVID-19 patients and other patients who need medical care. However they will be nursed in separate areas.
The beds at Bay Studios, if needed, will be for patients who are less ill, but not able enough to go home.
There are no plans to provide intensive care beds in either of the field hospitals, as the most seriously ill patients will be cared for in the main hospitals.
Tracy Myhill, Chief Executive of Swansea Bay University Health Board, said:
“I am grateful and extremely proud of the way we have come together as a region to meet the challenges of this pandemic. There is a real can-do attitude being demonstrated, and people are determined to do everything possible to safeguard our population.
“We are appreciative to our key partners, the two local authorities, and the NTPC Group of Colleges for their assistance. Our thanks, too, to Roy Thomas, the owner of Bay Studios, for being so accommodating and resourceful at very short notice, and the Ospreys, for so kindly giving up their training space at Llandarcy.
“This Swansea Bay response would not have been possible without so many sectors coming together and working as one.”
Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Rob Jones, said:
“It’s good to see the expertise of local government and the NHS coming together to meet the considerable challenges of the Coronavirus emergency. This is a good example of partnership working at a time of crisis.
“The delivery of extra beds for patients at this time is going to be crucial and we are happy to play our part.”
Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, explained that Swansea Council and its contractors will effectively be building the field hospital at Bay Studios from scratch.
The former factory's condition is not suitable to simply convert, so contractors will be building a huge box within the building's existing shell and installing new lighting, power, drainage and ventilation prior to the construction of the hospital rooms.
He said: “We are facing huge challenges and the council is doing everything it can to support the public during this crisis.
“I am so grateful to our staff for working at astonishing pace to get everything in place to convert an empty studio into a field hospital. They have been working round the clock to plan a hospital and source materials and supplies so that we can get to work immediately.”
Mark Dacey, Chief Executive and Principal of NPTC Group of Colleges said the college would do everything it could to help in the current situation.
He said: “These are difficult times for everyone. We all need to pull together and do whatever we can to help tackle the ongoing Covid-19 emergency that we are all caught up in. The College will do whatever it can to help support our communities and its people during this very difficult time.”
The Llandarcy Academy of Sport is normally used by thousands of students as well as keep fit enthusiasts. The Ospreys also use the state-of-the art facilities as their training ground.
Ideally placed, just off junction 42, it will provide additional bed space for hundreds of people. The indoor 3G arena (the barn), and gym which have hosted international rugby, football and netball teams from across the globe will be converted into wards to help deal with the anticipated peak in demand.
The college is working with Swansea Bay University Health Board and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to ensure everything is in place on time. The college is also donating 400 face masks that it has received from colleagues at its partner institution in Chongqing- China.