WORK has began on the new Bay Studios Field Hospital in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 300 carpenters, floor layers and electricians are turning a former car parts factory into a temporary field hospital at high speed.
Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said: “It’s like DIY SOS on a massive scale.”
The first phase will be ready in less than two weeks’ time, with the project on the outskirts of Swansea due to be completed by the end of June.
It will have capacity for just over 1,000 patients, and has been planned in tandem with the new Llandarcy Field Hospital three miles away.
The idea is that Singleton Hospital, Neath Port Talbot Hospital and – in particular Morriston Hospital – treat the most acute Covid-19 patients.
Swansea Bay University Health Board has created extra capacity in these three hospitals, but if that is breached then patients – predominantly those with the virus but with less acute symptoms – will go to Llandarcy.
If there is further hospital demand, patients needing less care, including those who are waiting to go home, will go to the Bay Studios site.
Health board chief executive Tracy Myhill said: “It is unbelievable how much progress has been made transforming these two buildings into field hospitals in just a few short weeks.
“My thanks go out to the local authorities and the contractors for the huge amount of time and effort which has been put into making this possible.”
Dr Anjula Mehta, interim unit medical director for primary care and community service, said the first big challenge in creating the field hospitals was agreeing a clinical model to ensure they were safe, feasible and deliverable.
“That gives you the clarity needed to design and equip them properly,” she said.
“We have not reached capacity in our main sites yet, and we are actively working on creating additional capacity.
“Our message is to be ready, to be prepared.”
Work has also began at the Neath Port Talbot College-owned Llandarcy site.
A triage section is being created, which leads onto an area with 63 beds for patients. A second, larger area with 260 beds is for patients needing less care.
The former gym, at the far end of the building, is a palliative area with 18 beds.
New floors have been laid and pipework installed for mains and waste water. Up to 65 contractors have been beavering away.
Site manager Carl Llewellyn, of construction company Andrew Scott Ltd, said he expected the field hospital to be handed over next Monday.
“Everybody here has got on with it,” he said. “Nobody has complained. The camaraderie has been excellent.”
Neath Port Talbot Council has been designing, managing and overseeing the project.
Council leader Rob Jones said: “I would like to thank all those involved who have been working tirelessly to complete this facility.
“We are all proud to be doing our bit in delivering extra beds to the NHS to support them in their efforts to save lives.”
The health board is finalising its plans to enable both field hospitals to operate effectively. This includes catering, cleaning, portering and security, as well as medicines management, staff facilities, estates, transport and waste management.
It said staffing them would, if they were needed, be a challenge.
Swansea Council has been liaising with the health board on the Bay Studios project, although most of the 265 workers on site this week are from Kier and TRJ.
Council leader Rob Stewart said the pace of the progress was “incredible”.
He said: “I came here five days ago and I was blown away then. It’s truly a war-time effort.”
He expected the Government-funded project at the site off Fabian Way would cost up to £15 million.
Council chief executive Phil Roberts said: “This is an incredible effort. I thank all our staff involved in pulling this project together.”
Mr Roberts said a project of this scale would normally take many months.
“My main job is to ensure we’ve got the resources we need, and to make sure staff are safe and feel supported,” he said.
A spokesman for TRJ, which has converted part of Llanelli’s Parc y Scarlets into a field hospital, said the company was pleased to be helping.
“The dedication shown by our workforce, supply chain and partner – Kier – has led to great progress being made on site,” he said.