Jersey has given the go-ahead for the construction of an emergency hospital with capacity for 180 Covid-19 patients.
It will contain six wards for 30 patients each, administrative facilities for recovery and discharge, as well as separate facilities for hospital staff and a morgue.
It will be along the lines of the Nightingale emergency hospital now in operation in London and others going up in strategic areas of the UK to cope with the Covid-19 emergency.
At present the numbers of Covid-19 cases in Jersey, which has a resident population of around 106,000, appear to be small.
There have been three deaths, all of them with underlying illnesses. This week a patient was helicoptered to hospital in Southampton, which is the UK National Health Service facility Jersey uses when it can not provide adequate treatment in the island's only hospital.
Latest figures on 9 April reported 183 positive and 1,455 negative Covid-19 cases, with 70 results still pending. While the testing has been quick the results have been slow to arrive as they had to be sent to the UK for analysis. But this week the island opened its own analysis centre which will be able to produce results in 24 hours.
The new emergency hospital will be a considerable undertaking. Additional staff will be needed and there will be some re-training of existing staff. Construction will be by J3, part of the large McAlpine construction group.
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Much of the material will have to be brought into the island, whether on the sea or airlifted is not yet known. Construction workers may also have to be recruited, although at the moment most construction companies are in virtual lockdown and will therefore have employees who can be relocated to the new site
The site for the emergency facility on the south coast is next to the church of St Matthews, famous for its exceptional glass windows and sculpture by the French master glass designer René Lalique. The glass interior was commission by Florence Boot in memory of her husband Jesse who expanded his father's small company into the national pharmaceutical chain Boots. When Jesse died in 1931 his widow Florence, who was from Jersey, rebuilt the old St Matthews church in his memory, installing the Lalique glass. She also gave the land next to the church, where the hospital will now be, to Jersey as a memorial to him. The Millbrook Playing Field was once a popular sports ground. Part of the area was redesigned as a play facility for young children a couple of years ago.
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J3, which will build the emergency facility, is part of a joint venture with McAlpine and two other companies Garenne (a local company) and FES (a Scottish based company). In 2018 the four-company venture was selected as the construction partners for Jersey's new general hospital under a pre-construction service agreement.
The plans for the reconstruction of the old general hospital, which only has just over 200 beds, have been mired in controversy for several years because of disagreement over its site. It was originally decided that the existing hospital, whose foundation stone dates back to 1765, should be enlarged and remodernised on its existing site in the island's town, St Helier. This project ran into protests from islanders, partly on the grounds that the planning procedures had not been followed correctly, but also because it would mean disruptions to the existing hospital during remodernisation and extension.
The whole project is now under review and a citizens' panel has also been appointed to take into account all aspects of the island's health care. Progress has been interrupted by the Covid-19 emergency. Lessons learnt from the emergency will in due course feed through new data not only for the new general hospital but also for all aspects of the island's health care system.
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Jersey to build an emergency Covid-19 hospital
Millbrook, Jersey JE3, Jersey