YORK Hospital risks being overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients during the winter months unless plans for an intensive care unit extension get the go-ahead urgently, an NHS consultant has warned.
The senior doctor said bosses have created plans for an intensive care pod extension at the hospital to treat coronavirus patients throughout the winter months – allowing the site’s main theatre to carry out non-Covid operations and prevent a backlog from building up.
He added that a modular build extension – proposed by the critical care lead at the hospital – would provide a further six intensive care isolation rooms for coronavirus patients to receive treatment.
And, that a meeting with Public Health England and the Government about signing off the proposal is due next week.
A spokesman for York Hospital confirmed that it had “submitted a capital bid for a modular unit as an adjunct to existing ICU facilities, to create additional ICU space at York Hospital”.
The Department of Health said York Hospital will receive £936,000 – as part of £300 million to upgrade their facilities ahead of winter – however, the York Trust said the application for the pod extension was “a different pot of money altogether”.
The consultant, who has worked at York Hospital for 20 years, said the decision for the building extension could be “make or break” for preventing the hospital being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients over the winter.
He said: “We currently only have five side rooms in the ICU. These were quickly filled in the first wave of coronavirus, but we managed successfully by using the main operating theatre complex as extra intensive care capacity.
“However, York Hospital gets very full every winter, with flu and other winter infections.
“We will need this development for Covid patients so we can keep other patients safe from a very infectious virus.
“If we can avoid having to use operating theatre capacity it allows necessary surgery to continue to be carried out over winter.
“If we don’t get something confirmed within the next week, there is concern it will not be built in time. With the arrival of winter, we could be back in the same position as of March – with our current ICU full with Covid-19 patients and normal operating stopped to provide extra intensive care capacity, and the hospital split between a cold and hot section.
“Other hospitals have since received funding but we still await this decision. We have a small number of ICU beds for our population, so this is a really important funding decision and there can be no further delay if we are to have this extra capacity for winter.
“If nothing is done and we get a second wave, staff will find it incredibly difficult. We are already exhausted and with the added pressure of Covid-19 this winter, it is an incredibly worrying time.”
The consultant said he feared the NHS “going back” to its old way of operating – having “moved mountains” at the start of the pandemic to prepare for the first wave.
He added: “It seems it is taking an age to get answers again. At the start of the pandemic, it seemed that almost impossible things could be done in very short periods. We hope that the NHS isn’t going back to how it has often been seen: where change is like changing the course of the Titanic.”
A spokesperson for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Patients should be reassured that our hospitals are well prepared for a possible second peak. We have a robust operational plan to ensure that measures are in place to help us safely treat coronavirus patients.
“As part of our planning, we want to ensure that we protect the facilities we need to maintain surgery, and avoid cancelling patient surgical procedures. To do this we have submitted a capital bid for a modular unit as an adjunct to existing ICU facilities, to create additional ICU space at York Hospital.”