Prince Charles will open the new 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale later today – less than two weeks after work began on the gigantic coronavirus field hospital.
With 80 rooms, the temporary installation of the ExCel Center in London’s Docklands is now the largest intensive care unit in the world.
Soldiers, carpenters, stewards and volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure that the NHS Nightingale could be ready for use in record time.
The Prince of Wales, who, earlier this week, completed self-isolation after his diagnosis of Covid-19, will launch the temporary installation via video link from his Scottish home in Birkhall.
The prince should say a few words in tribute to all those who worked to create the new medical center and to people across the United Kingdom who continue to provide primary care to those affected by the crisis.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who recently emerged from isolation after recovering from the virus, Professor Charles Knight, executive director of NHS Nightingale, as well as representatives from the Department of Defense, contractors and volunteers will attend the ceremony in person.
The facility will be used to process COVID-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units (ICUs) across London.
Those admitted to the hospital will already be ventilated and will stay at the Nightingale until the end of their ventilation cycle.
Coronavirus patients with other serious conditions – such as heart problems – will be treated in other specialist centers.
But the design of the hospital means that it can operate as a large intensive care unit or as a normal service, depending on demand.
More than 16,000 staff members may be required to operate it if the hospital reaches full capacity.
Staff will also be offered accommodation in nearby hotels.
Although all equipment used at Nightingale is a “new kit”, according to leaked documents, some health officials have expressed reservations about how communications could work in the large open building, normally used as a venue for fairs and exhibitions.
The clinical model projects seen by the Health Service Journal show that the poor acoustics of the building are a source of concern.
Although the most acute cases are sent elsewhere, the leaked documents also show that officials have modeled that between 16% and 20% of people admitted to hospital could die.
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Two other Nightingale hospitals will also be opened in Bristol and Harrogate.
Bristol Hospital will be able to care for up to 1,000 patients, while Harrogate will be able to care for up to 500.
They will join other sites due to their opening at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham and the Central Complex in Manchester.