‘Don’t be scared to use NHS’ plea as Scots virus hospital opens

Scotland’s £43 million emergency coronavirus hospital will open its doors to patients today as the Scottish Government revealed its lockdown exit strategy would be produced within days.

Health workers clap for contractors as the hospital is completed

The NHS Louisa Jordan, which was completed within three weeks, is now ready to receive Covid-19 patients, increasing Scotland’s bed capacity by an initial 300, rising to 1036 if the outbreak worsens.

Built within Glasgow’s Scottish Exhibition Centre, 800 people have been involved in the design and construction of the “fully operational” temporary hospital which includes pharmacy, radiology, laboratories, CT scanners, patient health records, as well as catering, portering and cleaning facilities.

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The chief executive of the new hospital, Jill Young, said that along with the beds, the “necessary trained workforce, infection control, supplies and equipment” were also in place.

The former chief executive of the Golden Jubilee Hospital at Clydebank added: “We have the planning in place to commence the escalation, if required, to the maximum capacity of 1036 bed bays which are also now in place. We will continue to train staff for environmental induction and awareness because it’s like nothing anyone has ever seen in a normal ward environment.

“We are ready and willing to work with our NHS colleagues across the country, as part of the Scottish Government’s overall response to the pandemic should the need arise for us to do so.”

The completion of the hospital came as the government stressed that the NHS was still open to all who needed it, and urged people with non-coronavirus medical emergencies and conditions to continue to visit their GP or local hospitals, rather than avoid them for fear of contracting the virus.

Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, said those who required the NHS for other medical reasons would be safe in using the health service. News of its ­opening opening also came as health secretary Jeane Freeman disclosed that Scotland’s death toll from coronavirus had now reached 903, with 174 patients in intensive care testing positive or suspected of having the virus. So far, a total of 39,612 people in Scotland have been tested for the coronavirus and of these, 31,425 were confirmed negative and 8,187 were positive.

Ms Freeman also revealed that the Scottish Government would unveil its plans to end lockdown in the coming week.

Responding to reports that the UK government was considering a “traffic light process” which could see some businesses reopen by mid-May – denied by Cabinet minister Michael Gove – Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government had not been consulted on such a plan, and would also not endorse the move.

The health secretary added that the government would shortly make public how and when lockdown could be lifted in Scotland.

At the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, 
she said: “We have committed to publishing later this week our initial thinking on how Scotland plots our way forward.

This will focus on the issues that have to be weighed up and the changes that will be required for society to adapt as safely as possible to the presence of the virus.

“We confirmed only three days ago that the existing lockdown would continue for a further three weeks and we will use that time to assess the evidence and the options before we make any further decisions.”

She said it was important for the public to understand the factors ministers would consider when discussing changes to the lockdown. “I think it is important that we do that in the coming week so it is clear, as we go through the next three weeks of lockdown, that people know how we are working our way through plotting our route through this so that we continue to keep the virus under control.”

On the NHS Louisa Jordan, Ms Freeman stressed her hope that the hospital would not be required, and gave thanks to all who had “worked tirelessly” to transform the SEC.

“I want to offer my sincere gratitude and thanks to the contractors and NHS Scotland staff who have come from across Scotland to work tirelessly to transform the SEC into the NHS Louisa Jordan. You are an inspiration to us all,” she said. “The decision on whether patients need to be admitted to the Louisa Jordan will be reviewed on a regular basis as the data on case numbers continues to come forward.

“As I’ve said before, I hope that this facility will not be needed, but it is valuable to have this extra capacity and I’m grateful to everyone who has delivered this hospital at such speed.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, announced on 30 March that Scotland would establish a temporary hospital to increase capacity to deal with the pandemic peak, similar to the NHS Nightingale in London. The hospital was named after Glasgow-born First World War nurse Sister Louisa Jordan, who died on active service in Serbia in 1915 as part of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Services.

The hospital is expected to operate on the basis of phased demand, with the level of staffing also fluctuating. All beds and equipment have been procured through normal NHS Scotland channels, and not being redirected from existing hospitals.

The government has said that any equipment not used, or which can be reused, will be distributed to existing or new NHS facilities when the temporary hospital is eventually dismantled, but the cost is expected to be around £43 million.

Jill Young said building the hospital had been an “incredible effort”. She added: “It has been a privilege to lead the project.”