Coronavirus: London mega-hospital mostly empty as UK health service handles demand

Abu Dhabi-owned center up and running less than two weeks after first being planned

London’s 4,000-bed pop-up hospital at the ExCel exhibition centre remains largely empty as Britain’s National Health Service continues to cope with the surge in demand for intensive-care beds.

Only 19 patients were treated in the rapidly built facility at the weekend, The Times reported.

Fears the UK’s NHS could be overwhelmed by demand for coronavirus treatment led to the creation, in March, of one of the world’s largest hospitals in the exhibition centre in London’s Docklands.

The makeshift hospital’s 80 new wards were designed to more than double the number of intensive care beds available to patients in London.

But internal NHS data suggested that existing hospitals in the UK capital have also been able to double the number of ICU beds available on their wards, bringing the total up to 1,555, the Health Service Journal reported.

And about 80 per cent of these beds were occupied as Britain celebrated Easter on Sunday, on the weekend the government predicted could be the peak of the country’s outbreak of the virus, suggesting London’s hospitals were managing to cope with the surge in demand.

Tight entry restrictions that exclude the most vulnerable patients could be behind the relatively low number of admissions to the ExCel centre. The mega-hospital was operational less than two weeks after its conception, the NHS said.

The ExCel centre became the first of the UK’s coronavirus field hospitals when it was opened on April 3 by the country’s future king, Prince Charles, who had himself only just recovered from the virus.

Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, which owns the centre, has provided the facility to the NHS for free.

Adnec this month said it had not charged the health service any rent, and offered to cover running costs at the site.

Since the creation of its first makeshift hospital in London, the UK has added field hospitals across the country.

Last week, the NHS announced it would begin developing two further Nightingale hospitals in the cities of Bristol and Sunderland, bringing the total number of field hospitals in the country to seven.

The NHS has also freed up as many as 33,000 beds across its existing hospitals, which it says is equivalent to building 50 district general hospitals, in an effort to handle the surge in coronavirus patients.

 

Nearly 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Britain, as the country contends with one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of the disease.

More than 12,000 people have now died with the virus, amid fears the toll could be much higher when figures from British care homes are taken into account.

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