TWO temporary field hospitals set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Carmarthenshire are to be returned to the local authority following the end of its contract with the health board.
Hywel Dda University Health Board will hand back Ysbyty Enfys Llanelli and Ysbyty Enfys Caerfyrddin to Carmarthenshire County Council, with the latter being partially mothballed so that beds can be retained in case of a second surge.
It means work will shortly get underway to repurpose the venues back to their original use as two of the council’s largest leisure centres.
Whilst the Llanelli site is being fully decommissioned, a small part of Carmarthen Leisure Centre’s hospital infrastructure will be mothballed should it be needed again in the future.
It is planned that leisure facilities will begin a phased reopening to the public for October – specific details will be communicated directly to members and further information will be communicated via Actif Sport and Leisure website and social media platforms in the coming weeks.
Improvement works to the car park, tennis courts and athletics track have resumed in Carmarthen and it is planned that these works will also be completed for an October re-opening date.
Final decisions are yet to be taken regarding two other temporary field hospitals in Llanelli, at Ysbyty Enfys Selwyn Samuel and Ysbyty Enfys Scarlets, although the health board is in discussions around retaining some bed capacity at these locations if needed.
Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council and Parc Y Scarlets handed over their facilities to support the NHS in April as the country braced itself for the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Contractors commissioned by the county council worked tirelessly to convert the leisure centre, an indoor bowling and events centre and a rugby stadium to provide additional bed space for the NHS in just three weeks.
The ensuing Government lockdown and restrictions put in place to stop the growing spread of the virus meant that only one of the field hospitals was eventually used.
Hywel Dda University Health Board used Ysbyty Enfys Caerfyrddin to care for a small number of patients recovering from non-Covid medical treatment to ease the strain on nearby Glangwili Hospital as it resumed routine patient care.
Jake Morgan, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Director for Communities and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “We continue to work in close partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board to support them as they manage increased demand for NHS care. However, we are pleased that they are now in a position to return two of the two temporary hospitals we provided in Carmarthenshire.
“We will shortly begin work to bring them back into use as leisure centres. Robust operating plans are in place should they be needed in the future.”
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, the council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “Our members and local residents will be pleased to see these leisure centres brought back into use. I want to thank people for their patience and understanding, and for their continued support of our NHS throughout the pandemic.
“We are of course still fighting this virus – it has not gone away – and whilst we can be thankful that these temporary hospitals were largely unused it is vitally important that we continue to take extra precautions to prevent further spread as much as we possibly can.”
Andrew Carruthers, Hywel Dda Health Board’s Executive Director of Operations, added: “Firstly we would like to express our deepest thanks for the efforts of our colleagues and partners in local authorities, private businesses, contractors and our own staff. The way in which everyone came together to deliver these field hospitals in such a short space of time earlier in the year was nothing short of remarkable, and on behalf of the health board I want to extend our deepest gratitude to all for making this happen in the midst of a very serious global pandemic.
“From the outset, the biggest challenge that we and our partners have faced has been the need to balance the public health and wellbeing of our communities with the need for our society and economy to return to a form of normality, and as a health board we are pleased that our ongoing planning and response to COVID-19 has given us capacity to be both robust and flexible.
“At the same time, we must emphasise that this virus has not gone away, and that we remain at a high state of preparedness so that we can quickly reinstate beds at short notice in several localities if needed, particularly as we approach the critical point going into the autumn and winter period.”