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  1. ITV Report

Inside the field hospitals in Wales ready to accept their first coronavirus patients

The first 300 beds are now ready for patients. Credit: Abigail Harris

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown 'normal' out of the door, in Wales and around the world.

However, out of all the changes to everyday life, the re-purposing of leisure centres, concert halls and stadiums into medical facilities is perhaps the most visually stark.

The Principality Stadium is now a field hospital. Credit: Abigail Harris

In Cardiff, the largest sports stadium in the country has nearly finished its transformation into a field hospital to treat people infected by the coronavirus. The first 300 beds have been ready for patients from Easter Sunday.

It is a strange reality that no one could have predicted when the Welsh rugby team last took to the field at the Principality Stadium on the 22nd February in their Six Nations clash with France.

The first 300 beds are now operational from Sunday. Credit: Abigail Harris

The stadium can usually host nearly 75,000 rowdy and joyful fans of a range of different sports. It will now have a temporary capacity for 2,000 hospital patients.

This is change at an incredible pace. Just over four weeks after Scotland were due to walk out onto the pitch, this Sunday the stadium was ready to welcome coronavirus patients instead.

Cardiff and Vale Health Board told ITV News there will not be any intensive care facilities in the stadium and that coronavirus patients would be admitted for care in the recovery phase.

Health officials said capacity levels are good in other hospitals so the Principality would not yet be needed.

Building work continues inside the stadium. Credit: ITV News

"There will be two clinical environments. One will be on the pitch and the other will be around the hospitality boxes", Dr Stuart Walker, Executive Medical Director, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said.

"The patients that will be using this facilities will have been initially admitted to one of our acute hospital facilities, may have needed intensive care and may not have done, but are now in a recovery phase. They are not fit enough to go home but need support and care to get to that point.

"We could if necessary use up to 300 beds here on Sunday and ultimately there will be 2,000 beds or so on this site."

We've modelled a large number of scenarios and from the best case all the way through to the very worse case scenario and in all of those cases we require. some beds in this hospital facility at the Principality.

– Dr Stuart Walker, Executive Medical Director, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
The hospitality box area of the stadium will be part of the hospital facility. Credit: ITV News

If the Principality Stadium is required for use at full capacity, it will be a massive logistical challenge to be fully operational as a field hospital.

"20,000 bed pans need emptying a day", Jonathon Gray, Director of Transformation Cardiff and Vale Health Board told ITV News.

"20-25 thousand things that need moving by porters every day and there'll be 3,500 tonnes of clinical waste to get off site.

"At the moment, we have around 500 contractors today. Plus about 500 support staff and about 50 army personnel helping us."

We'll have 2,500 staff. 12,000 meals will be required every day.

– Jonathon Gray, Director of Transformation Cardiff and Vale Health Board
Members of the armed forces help put together the new field hospital in the Principality Stadium. Credit: ITV News

These efforts are not just going on in Cardiff either. It was announced on Thursday that work on the transformation of the Swansea Bay film studios and former factory into a hospital will go 24/7 from the Easter holiday period.

Swansea Council is working with contractors to convert the Bay Studios Elba building into a field hospital on behalf of the Swansea Bay University Health Board.

It will have more than 1,000 extra beds for the NHS and will help manage the expected upsurge in Coronavirus cases.

Swansea Bay studios are also being converted into a field hospital.

The task facing the council and its contractors is huge as the building has been empty for several years. However, with work scheduled 24/7 from April 10 including the Easter holiday period, we’re getting the job done.

The transformation continues and changes are clear to see every day.

– Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart
The Welsh Rugby Union's indoor training facility is being turned in a 290 bed field hospital. Credit: ITV News

In the Vale of Glamorgan, the Welsh Rugby Union's indoor training facility is being turned in a 290 bed field hospital to help doctors fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Just eight days on from starting work, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board say the work to adapt the indoor training ground at the Vale Resort where Wales' rugby teams train is making fast progress.

The Welsh Rugby Union's indoor training facility is being turned in a 290 bed field hospital. Credit: ITV News

"In just eight days we have changed this from being the WRU's indoor training pitch to looking like a hospital ward", Richard Lee, Clinical Lead, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said.

"We are expecting to be able to take our first patients here on the 27th April.

"We'll have registered nurses, non-registered support staff, doctors, physios, and we'll have access to the gym so we can really rehabilitate these people to give them the best chance to go home."

There are still many unknowns with regards to coronavirus. We still do not know when the peak of cases is likely to come, nor do we know on what scale that peak will be.

It may seem frightening to see field hospitals pop up across the country, but given the scale of the coronavirus challenge, organisations are understandably working non-stop to provide the best care and services for those in need, come-what-may.