Medics in Blackpool are preparing for a surge in the number of people suffering from coronavirus who will have to be hospitalised in coming weeks.
Measures taken at Blackpool Victoria Hospital (BVH) include increasing the availability of life-saving ventilators and creating more capacity in wards.
Routine operations have been suspended, patients are being sent home where it is safe to do so and staff are also getting additional training.
Jim Gardner, medical director at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, said as of Tuesday this week there were fewer than 10 patients in BVH with coronavirus, although results were expected from testing of other patients.
He said there were “well over 50 ventilators” available to the hospital. These include those in the intensive care unit, plus ventilators from operating theatres where routine surgery has been suspended.
The total also includes ventilators from other high dependency and cardiac units in the hospital.
He said: “We have stood down non-elective surgery, and out-patients consultations are being carried out by telephone or video link in order to restrict the number of people coming on site.
“We are discharging patients where it is safe to do so. So we are creating a lot of potential capacity to help us manage a surge in coronavirus patients.
“Staff are also being trained to take on extended roles.
“We also have some empty wards at the moment thanks to a deep cleaning process we have been going through so that is also helping us.”
Dr Gardner said patients with other serious illnesses were continuing to receive their treatment as normal and the Cardiac Centre was also running as normal.
He said: “The priority is patients who surgeons think are urgent and also people who are on a cancer pathway. There is also capacity to work with the private hospitals.”
A daily operational committee is meeting to discuss the hospital’s strategies as the crisis continues and begins to affect issues such as staffing levels as some doctors and nurses have to self isolate themselves.
Dr Gardner added: “Staff are very anxious about personal protection equipment and those supply chain issues are really important.
“The Government’s release of stock has been very helpful.
“We know it’s going to be tough, and I’m certainly not complacent but we are putting all the measures we can in place.”