Birmingham news Hospitals crisis: pressure mounts for answers on £66m NEC Nightingale MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - A health briefing this morning should provide some answers about if and when the extra hospital will be needed
Breaking News ! Pressure is mounting to explain why Birmingham's emergency NHS Nightingale at the NEC is still closed, as cases rocket and hospital beds fill up with patients sick and dying from coronavirus. The temporary venue was created at a cost of £66 million in the spring - making it the most expensive built - but has not treated a SINGLE patient. Lack of medical staff to look after patients sent there - whether with coronavirus or other conditions - is understood to be the main reason why the huge facility remains out of use. NHS chiefs say the location is ready to take patients 'with 72 hours notice'. When pressed today on whether the situation has now changed, given the emerging crisis in hospitals, we received the same response. Read More Related Articles Birmingham hospitals prepare emergency plans for '1,000 Covid patients' Read More Related Articles Busiest day EVER for ambulances as coronavirus surge gets worse Today city MPs and council leaders will receive an updated briefing from health chiefs about the dire situation facing the city and will press for answers on the likely use of the facility and whether we have now reached the stage of 'last resort'. In London, the Nightingale facility at the ExCel Centre has now reopened to ease pressure in the capital's hospitals, taking non-Covid patients to free up more beds for the sick and dying. It is also operating as a vaccination hub. Its medical director Dr Vin Diwakar told a Downing Street press conference last week: "This means that hospitals have more beds to care for Covid-19 patients and for our very sickest patients. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge opens the new NHS Nightingale Hospital at the NEC via video link on 16 April. (Image: Getty Images) "There comes a point where if the infection gets further out of control, more and more patients from London will need to be transferred elsewhere." Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, will be among the group of MPs on the regional briefing call this morning. He said urgent questions would be asked about the situation in the community and in hospitals, with hopes that the rapid escalation in new infections is beginning to slow. The future of the Nightingale hospital will also be raised. "We will be asking what the plans are for the Nightingale hospital at the NEC, and what plans there are to staff it that does not entail taking people away from the existing frontline." Around 50 people, including representatives of the military, NHS and construction trades, attended the official opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham (Image: PA) The NEC Nightingale was opened to a fanfare in April, capable at the time of providing more than 2,000 emergency beds. It was officially opened by Prince William and Health Secretary Matt Hancock. More than 400 employees and contractors, supported by 60 Ghurkhas from the British Army, worked more than 100,000 construction hours to create the venue. But it was mothballed in the summer, and then moved to a smaller part of the NEC estate - still capable of holding hundreds of patients.
. In late November, as cases started to spike, the city's director of public health Dr Justin Varney said the venue might open soon if the rate of admissions increased significantly.
A nurse provides care to a patient in an Intensive Care ward treating victims of the coronavirus
(Image: Getty Images)
He said then: "I suspect we may see it open in the next month." While just before Christmas regional mayor Andy Street said it would only open as 'a last resort'. The use of hospitals as the locations for vaccine hubs will also be discussed at today's briefing, given the critical pressures they are facing, said Mr Byrne. "We will also be asking whether further community restrictions are needed and what measures, if any, could make a difference." Mr Byrne has expressed his concern that the mass rollout of the vaccine currently under way is not proceeding at the pace needed to 'overtake the virus'. He is pressing for community pharmacies to be rapidly brought in to deliver vaccinations in neighbourhoods, reducing pressure and travel requirements.
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He chaired an online discussion on Monday with pharmacists desperate to be part of the mass effort. Mr Byrne said: "We are in a race against time - it is the virus versus the vaccine." Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said of the current situation in the city: "It is of course extremely worrying and the concerns of health officials on the frontline of the pandemic must be listened to. "I urge the Government not to repeat their earlier mistake of failing to respond quickly enough to developments. We saw that with the easing of restrictions for Christmas and with the issue of schools reopening for the new term.
The leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward
(Image: Birmingham Mail)
"Here in Birmingham, we listen to concerns from health officials and other partners and that's why we called for supermarkets to step up their Covid safety measures last week. "It's also why I've written to the Health and Safety Executive this week, expressing concerns that some employers are failing in their duty to protect staff during the latest lockdown. "I've also written to the Education Secretary requesting that the Government urgently publishes evidence, taking into account the new variant of Covid-19, to reassure parents and providers that pre-schools and nurseries remain safe.
"The vaccine roll out has given people hope, but this crisis is far from over and the Government must listen to the experts and react quickly if further restrictions are needed." Hundreds of doctors and nurses are being redeployed from other parts of University Hospitals Birmingham to support critical care, the number of intensive care beds has been dramatically increased and elective operations and outpatient clinics are largely on hold as hospitals are overwhelmed with new coronavirus patients. As we reported last night, the number of inpatients in both University Hospitals Birmingham and Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals now exceeds the number at the peak of the first wave of cases in the spring.
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