CARMARTHEN’S field hospital Ysbyty Enfys Caerfyrddin has welcomed its first patients, providing care and support for those who no longer need medical input but still need some care prior to going home.

A small number of patients (non-COVID) have been moved from Glangwili Hospital to Ysbyty Enfys Caerfyrddin where they will be cared for by an experienced team of nurses, therapists and a resident consultant.

Field hospitals have been established in each of the three counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire as a precautionary measure to enable to NHS to respond to the current COVID pandemic. This is the first time one of the hospitals has been used for patient care.

Dr Meinir Jones, clinical lead for the field hospitals and transformation, explained:

“Whilst the number of COVID patients in our hospitals is currently reducing, our hospitals are getting busier with other medical activity and we are seeing more people. This activity has reached the level at which we agreed we would need additional capacity from the field hospitals. This level was set according to several considerations including the need to have the capacity to admit COVID patients to the main acute hospitals in line with demand, being able to have the right number of patients to adhere to current infection prevention measures and new clinical guidelines, and to safely reinstate some other urgent and critical planned procedures for our patients.”

Staffing for Ysbty Enfys Caerfyrddin has been made possible thanks to the flexibility of current health care staff in Hywel Dda, some of whom are temporarily working in different roles or increased hours; as well previous members of staff returning to work and additional recruitment.

The patient experienced team will also be closely involved in the project to monitor and ensure the patient experience in the field hospitals is positive and supportive to their recovery.

Dr Jones said: “Opening up Ysbyty Enfys Caerfyrddin will release some capacity in Glangwili Hospital and support the reinstating of other urgent planned procedures. We are acutely aware of the impact postponements have had on patients and their quality of life.”

Other field hospitals in the three counties are available to respond quickly and flexibly should there be another peak in COVID cases that place a demand on our services. The decision to open the Carmarthen facility, based at the leisure centre, was based on it being geographically central to more Hywel Dda residents than other sites.

Acute hospitals due to their intensive care capacity, access to theatres and supplies such as oxygen, and the support network around the hospital, are best placed to deal with patients who need more acute medical intervention and so will continue to be the primary sites for acutely unwell patients (both COVID and non-COVID).

As well as the field hospitals, additional bed capacity is also available in our community hospitals where there are beds. The intention is to continue to use these facilities for non-COVID patients. Should we see any rise in COVID cases, the field hospitals would care for COVID patients exclusively or be safely split to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients.

Currently due to the nature of demand, Ysbyty Enfys Caerfyrddin will be used for ‘step down’ from hospital – those who need a supported discharge back home or through support from social services – and potentially step up if there is concern that patients based in the community need additional support.

Other field hospitals are currently not in use (‘hibernating’) but could be stood up if necessary. Their use will be continually reviewed according to NHS need but also potential changes of restrictions in Wales.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda UHB said: “Central to our development of the field hospitals has been the flexibility they could allow us to be able to manage capacity and demand throughout this pandemic.

“COVID unfortunately is not going to simply go away, and so we need to base our plans not just on how we manage COVID patients, but also how we can restart other services and provide continuity of care across the system during the next 12 months or longer.

“Both our planning and delivery is and will continue to be based on national and local clinical advice and with the ultimate objective of keeping our population as safe as possible when they need to access our services for care.

“We are extremely grateful to these patients and their families for working with us and allowing us to protect our acute hospital beds, while also providing high quality care in these new settings.”

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