Up to 7,000 extra hospital beds are being created by NHS Wales as it prepares for an increase in coronavirus cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said today.
Critical care capacity has more than doubled across Wales and 1,000 new ventilators are on order.
1,300 retired healthcare professionals have also responded to a call to return to the NHS frontline, and 1,200 registered GP locums are preparing to enter the NHS Wales workforce.
The new hospital bed numbers include:
- In Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, the Principality Stadium in Cardiff will have space for 2,000 beds.
- The Grange University Hospital will be opened early in the Aneurin Bevan UHB area providing an extra 350 beds. A partnership with St Joseph’s Hospital in Newport will provide an extra 36 beds.
- Betsi Cadwaladr UHB will create an extra 870 beds at Venue Cymru, in Llandudno, Deeside Leisure Centre and Bangor University.
- Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB will create 900 extra beds at the Vale WRU centre and use the Vale Hospital in Hensol, Ty Trevithick in Abercynon and care home and community beds.
- Hywel Dda UHB has plans for an additional 660 beds by using Parc y Scarlets and Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, the Selwyn Samuel Centre, in Llanelli and Werndale Hospital in Carmarthen.
- Swansea Bay UHB will create more than 1,400 beds at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport, Bay Studios in Swansea and it will also use Sancta Maria Hospital.
- Powys Teaching Health Board is taking forward a range of opportunities to create additional hospital beds in local communities.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “I have been overwhelmed by the response of health and care professionals to the calls we have made for their support. This is a humbling reminder of the commitment of our health and care staff.
“Over the last few days we have seen an increase in the pace and urgency of the response across Wales to prepare vital health and care services to meet the imminent challenges posed by coronavirus.”
There remains concern about the lack of coronavirus tests available in Wales, with opposition parties saying that more testing is needed.
The Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM, expressed concern over the length of time some Coronavirus test results took to come back – and said that she has been told some results have not been returned.
“Constituents – and these are healthcare employees, battling on the frontline against this pandemic – have told me that their results have taken a week or more to come back, and in at least one case, the results simply didn’t arrive,” she said.
“This puts the staff, their colleagues and patients, and households at risk.
“Frontline medical and nursing staff need the reassurance that a test and the result – positive or negative – will give.
“I will be speaking further with the Health Minister to have the situation clarified, because although these are extraordinary circumstances, our NHS Wales staff must have all the means at their disposal to stay safe, and to be able to perform their roles for all our benefit.”
Plaid Cymru also expressed concern about vulnerable people who were under impression they would not receive care if they fell ill with the virus.
Older people and those classed as having underlying health problems should be reassured that they will be given medical treatment by the NHS, according to South Wales East AM Delyth Jewell.
Her message comes following conversations with a constituent who thought she would not be treated if she fell ill with coronavirus because she is in the at-risk group.
The 78-year-old constituent (who did not want to be named) told Delyth Jewell: “I had thought that if I went to A&E then they would only be treating younger people. It does make you feel like you don’t matter as much. I thought that if I caught the virus no one would be able to help me.”
Delyth Jewell said that other people may come to similar conclusions having read reports in the press that over-70s aren’t being given lifesaving treatments in other countries, and that a GP surgery in Maesteg had sent ‘do not resuscitate’ letters to patients with severe illnesses.
Plaid Cymru AM Delyth Jewell said: “I was aghast to learn that some of my constituents believe that the NHS will not care for them if they fall ill with Covid-19 because they’re over 70 or have an underlying health condition.
“This is not the case, the incredible staff that make up the Welsh NHS workforce will do everything they can to give life-saving treatment to anybody who falls ill.
“While it is true that people who are deemed most at-risk from the virus should take extra precautions to try to avoid falling ill, this does not mean that they are not entitled to healthcare if they do.
“Every human life is precious, there is no hierarchy when it comes to compassion – the Welsh NHS is there for everyone who needs it.”