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Chief Minister statement on field hospital

09 April 2020

john le fondre

​The Chief Minister has issued the following statement:

On Tuesday, you heard an update from Health and Community Services on how they were preparing for COVID-19. Today, I want to update you on how the Government has taken the next important step in those preparations.

As part of Tuesday’s update, our Medical Director, Patrick Armstrong, explained how the experience in other countries is that the number of cases grow slowly over time and then escalate.  Patrick said that he and the team is ensuring that Jersey has the resources and the capacity to cope with the expected increase in the demand for Coronavirus-related care.

Health are doing a fantastic job recruiting additional clinical staff and upskilling colleagues to meet the demand. They are freeing up as much healthcare capacity as possible, by cancelling elective operations. And they are accessing beds in the community to create some additional capacity.

But the modelling of the expected increase in demand for care in coming weeks shows that this will not be enough. So we also need additional beds and in a hospital environment. And that is why we have determined to build a temporary nightingale hospital to cope with the overflow of COVID-19 cases that we anticipate.

You may have heard of Nightingale hospitals in the UK – temporary hospitals set up specifically to provide extra critical care capacity. That is what Jersey is building – with an extra 180 beds for Islanders with Coronavirus who need hospital care.

This can be further expanded to 240 beds should we need it. This will be only for COVID-19 cases and there will be six wards, with 30 beds in each ward. It will cost around £14.4 million to build. But we cannot allow Islanders to die because we wouldn’t spend the money that would save their lives.

Yesterday, the Emergencies Council approved Millbrook Playing Field as the location for Jersey’s Nightingale Hospital. And we have appointed experienced partners to work with us – J3 – who have been part of construction team for the Manchester and Glasgow Nightingale hospitals.

The first construction supplies are arriving this weekend, building will begin early next week and it will be operational by early May. That is less than a month from decision to opening. It will remain operational until we no longer need additional capacity.

We assessed 16 different sites against 24 specific criteria, such as size, topography, accessibility and basic utility infrastructure. We chose Millbrook for two main reasons:

  • first, it enables us to build quickly. The site is big and flat, so it can accommodate the pre-fabricated building, which we are importing from the UK, and it has access to electricity and drainage.
  • second, it enables us to build in a Nightingale configuration – beds set out in long rows, which will enable our nursing staff to work at their most efficient.

Existing buildings, like Fort Regent, were rejected because the Nightingale configuration couldn’t be implemented, which would have made the layout less efficient and required more health staff.

The same goes for using a hotel – we need open wards with beds either side, not individual rooms, so that we can better medically care for patients.

It is so important that we put as little additional pressure on our amazing clinical staff as possible, by providing them with the optimum layout. So in about a month’s time, we will have a temporary facility which will enable nursing staff to work at their most efficient. It will mean we are prepared for when the curve will get steeper and – in all probability – the number of cases to rise.

Jersey’s Nightingale Hospital will save lives, because it will give us the extra beds we will need to treat the increasing number of Islanders who become ill with Coronavirus. And it will enable the General Hospital to maintain the important division between ‘hot’ Coronavirus care areas and ‘cold’ general care areas.

Additional beds and staff are vital in tackling COVID-19, but expanding the capacity of our health service is only part of the solution. The single biggest contribution to tackling Coronavirus is still to slow the rate of infection, by all Islanders complying with the Government’s instructions to stay at home, self-isolate and practice social distancing.

Stay home and save lives. It is working and we are flattening the curve.

But flattening the curve doesn’t stop the spread of the virus. We still expect a very large number of cases, but they will be spread over a longer period, enabling our health system to cope with them – as well as possible - and therefore to save more lives than if they all happened at once.

We now have 183 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Jersey, with 16 currently being treated in hospital.

We have had 1455 negative results and we are awaiting the results of 70 tests. And sadly, 3 Islanders have died.

Our progress is good and it indicates the measures we have implemented so far are working. But we are still at a very early stage and we must expect, and prepare for, more Islanders to contract the virus and to need hospital care.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, and the start of what is normally is long weekend of reflection and celebration, both for Christians and for those who are not religious. But as you celebrate Easter, please remember those people who are working on our frontline.

Our health and emergency services and those people who look after Jersey’s physical and civil infrastructure. They are all still on call and still working incredibly hard. They come to work so that we can stay safe at home. My family and I will be applauding them again at eight o’clock tonight, as I’m sure the whole Island will.

And it’s acts like these that show that, while we may not be able to have physical contact, we can still have emotional contact, and support one another, even during these extraordinary times. 

Thank you for taking the time to listen. And thank you for continuing to make a real difference and for saving lives.

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