Plans for temporary coronavirus field hospitals away from traditional healthcare sites might be shelved in Northern Ireland due to logistical issues, the Deputy First Minister has said.
Michelle O’Neill said securing gas supply to some of the earmarked locations was one of the challenges. She said there may now be attempts to create the extra capacity on existing hospital sites.
Last week, a senior civil servant in the Department of Health wrote to health trust bosses informing them of preparations for large temporary field hospitals.
Plans for the regional critical care facilities were being developed after modelling indicated the health service network may not have the capacity to cope at the peak of the outbreak.
Major sporting and entertainment venues in Great Britain have already been identified as temporary field hospitals.
Ms O’Neill was asked about progress on the issue in Northern Ireland at Monday’s Covid-19 press briefing.
“It’s amazing the amount of planning we are having to do for every scenario, so you have to have a plan for the worst-case scenario, you have to plan for the fact that your hospitals could be overrun, so a field hospital is basically a hospital that is outside of a normal hospital site,” she said.
“The health minister (Robin Swann) has been exploring a number of options about how he can actually adopt if that is needed, but I think some of the sites that they have been looking at, there would be particular challenges, not least because of being able to get gas to those sites.
“So I think that he is rethinking that and perhaps the thinking more now is being able to use existing hospital facilities that we have and I think that’s what we need to do.”
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The minister of health is looking at his capacity in relation to how many beds he needs in the reasonable worst-case scenario and he is preparing for that.
“I understand those technical assessments in relation to the capacity of the National Health Service here in Northern Ireland are ongoing, and there may well be announcements from the minister of health in relation to that in the future.”