The Department of Health will be designating Belfast City Hospital’s tower block as Northern Ireland’s first Nightingale Hospital – for the anticipated surge of Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care in the weeks ahead.
This will be a 230 bed regional facility staffed by a team drawn from across Northern Ireland. Surge plans also include the development of further critical care capacity at Altnagelvin and Ulster Hospital sites as part of a phased approach to the surge plan.
Establishing this Nightingale facility will require significant temporary reconfiguration of existing critical care provision across our hospital network.
Work is in train to make necessary infrastructure alterations within the tower block. It will also be necessary for a proportion of current non-Covid patients in the tower block to receive their care in an alternative location.
The Department is continuing to assess the potential of the Eikon Centre at Balmoral Park, Maze as a second Nightingale facility to further increase bed capacity later this year in preparation for any further wave of the Coronavirus, should this occur.
The Department can confirm that Northern Ireland’s health system has now increased its ventilator total to 165. Further orders are in place and being actively progressed.
The surge planning is being informed by the Covid-19 modelling made public by the Department.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “It is important to emphasise again that this modelling work is not a prediction or forecast.
“All modelling necessarily carries a level of uncertainty. It is therefore prudent to plan for a scenario beyond the reasonable worst case. That is what we are doing.
“The best way to ensure our health service can cope remains for everyone to stick firmly to the social distancing measures now in place. That message cannot be repeated too frequently or too forcibly.”
Staff will be briefed by their respective Trust management, ahead of reconfiguration plans being made public
The Minister added: “I fully recognise the challenges these emergency arrangements will present for staff, with new ways of working and in many cases a new workplace location. I am determined that we will do everything possible to support them and their colleagues across the HSC as they take on the many challenges that Covid-19 brings.
“We owe them all a debt that can never be repaid. I also give a commitment that trade union side will be kept informed as the plan is rolled out.”