Lives are still on the line in Lanarkshire, and there’s no room for complacency.

But the sight - at last - of some free beds in the Monklands Hospital intensive care unit (ICU) is the light at the end of the tunnel.

It was early March that Monklands took its first Covid-19 patient.

Experienced medics had to learn about a novel virus while patients were on life support in front of them.

Monklands is now reporting new and unexpected problems in patients who’ve recovered from coronavirus.

There are unusually high rates of kidney failure and a brain condition called delirium - issues seen in patients across the globe.

The team at Monklands is learning more about coronavirus from patients.

And this knowledge is helping them push back against the respiratory disease.

The infectious diseases ward is where the first Covid-19 patient was seen in Monklands.

Much of the learning in the hospital about what has worked and what didn’t when treating coronavirus patients stems from the ward.

Credit: ITV News

One of the key tools the Lanarkshire health board used to stop hospitals being overwhelmed was the creation of Covid triage in their community health centres.

Anyone showing Covid-19 symptoms still dials 111, but instead of being sent straight to hospital, they come to the health centres first for a physical assessment, like 67-year-old Keith.

About 60% of those who come to the health centres are deemed fit enough to recover at home, making sure hospital beds have been kept available for the most sick patients.

The Monklands hospital building itself has also been adapted as more was learned about the virus and how it can be carried from room to room.

The Lanarkshire health board was already at the design stage for a brand new Monklands hospital building, due for completion in seven years.

Coronavirus now means going back to the drawing board for an NHS that’s planning for future pandemics and long-term social distancing.

Credit: ITV News

Digital consultations and online family visits are part of the rethink for what a post-Covid-19 hospital will need.

But in the short-term, having coronavirus deaths without relatives present has been part of the learning curve.

The ICU nurses prepare end-of-life care packs for families who can’t be bed-side in the final minutes.

One of the biggest problems Scotland has in this pandemic is shielding the elderly.

Many care homes have been devastated, and the Scottish Government suspects some cases are linked to patients being sent into care homes from hospitals, then seeding the virus.

Now, before any elderly patient is discharged, they must give two negative tests.

Staff in this ward are now a first line of defence for care homes.

Staff at the hospital have learnt they can’t depend on testing alone though.

ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith with an end-of-life care package. Credit: ITV News

The protective equipment that keeps staff safe has also been a burden when it comes to the urgency of trying to save a life.

"As the pandemic evolves" is the thinking.

No one talks about coronavirus going away - not yet.

Every ward has staff who say these last few months have been their worst, but in dark days shared with their colleagues they’ve also seen the best of humanity.

The first peak wave of coronavirus has passed, but no one at the hospital is celebrating.

They are tired, and there is something of an acceptance they will need to go again.

But they’ve learned from their good days and from their bad.

And if a second Covid-19 wave does come, this time they know what to expect, and they are ready.

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