A NEW field hospital with 1,000 beds could potentially be used after the coronavirus pandemic, Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart has said.

He led a virtual cabinet meeting in which colleagues unanimously approved the Bay Studios scheme, which is set to cost up to £15 million.

“What we have is a 1,000-bed semi-permanent hospital on our doorstep,” said the Swansea Labour leader.

He said he hoped no beds would be needed for Covid-19 patients for now, but added it was “likely” that the facility would be needed at some point, given mortality rates associated with the virus.

And, looking further ahead, he said: “Longer term there is a decision for both the health board and for Welsh Government to decide whether this facility could be used to assist with surgeries, and with reduction in waiting lists and for medical treatment on a larger scale.

“That is a discussion we are keen to support.”

The council is overseeing the new-build project, off Fabian Way, which has been commissioned by Swansea Bay University Health Board.

The council’s chief finance officer, Ben Smith, said the authority was in a more fortunate position than the health board in that it had “sovereign powers” to undertake borrowing and money held in reserve to support “rapid spend and deployment”.

Mr Smith said the council expected to get a full refund of its outlay, which is from a pot of money set aside to finance borrowing costs for the new indoor arena.

Cabinet members praised council officers and contractors Kier Group and TRJ for their efforts in getting the first phase of the field hospital ready for completion by the end of this week.

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They have been working 24/7 since the beginning of the month to transform the vast the building from its former 1950s manufacturing use to a modern field hospital.

The site is owned by the Welsh Government and leased to Swansea businessman Roy Thomas, with the University of Wales Trinity St David also having an interest in part of the land.

Such a scheme would normally involve a lengthy procurement and planning process, but this has been short-circuited by national emergency powers.

Seconding the report, cabinet member for homes and energy, Cllr Andrea Lewis, said she was impressed with the thought given to the welfare of NHS staff at the field hospital as well as the comfort of patients.

“I am sure this will be an invaluable asset for the NHS going forward,” she said.

“Unlike other field hospitals it is not built in a stadium and could be for fit for a longer term purpose, as you (Cllr Stewart) have stated.”

The cabinet report was scrutinised last Friday by a cross-party committee of councillors.

It welcomed the new field hospital but wanted assurances that every penny would be reimbursed. It was also keen that the site had a longer term future.

“Given the pressure on social care and need for better integration with health there may be further potential in the site,” said the committee’s chairwoman, Cllr Mary Jones, in a letter to the council leader.

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