New Nightingale Hospital in London gets first patients

April 08, 2020
by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter
London's new Nightingale Hospital — a “pop-up” COVID-19 hospital assembled in nine days at the ExCel Exhibition Centre — has received its first patients, according to Reuters.

The hospital, opened by Prince Charles on Friday, will house up to 4,000 beds with ventilators and oxygen in 80 wards, and will be staffed by as many as 25,000 doctors, nurses and other personnel.

The ExCel Centre was being rented to the National Health Service (NHS) by owner Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) for £2 million to £3 million, according to The Sunday Times. The money was to cover fixed costs.

But that initial deal has changed, according to ExCel chief executive Jeremy Rees. "We have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves," and provide the space rent-free, according the the BBC.

"To be clear, profit has always been the furthest thing from our minds," said Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, managing director and group chief executive of ADNEC, adding, "it is our firm commitment that we will not charge a penny for the use of our facilities, and we will provide the NHS with the operational and logistical support it needs for NHS Nightingale London."

After a sluggish response including suggestions that “herd immunity” was a viable strategy, and with U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson now in the ICU battling against infection with coronavirus, the nation is responding with more aggressive countermeasures.

Johnson entered London's St. Thomas' hospital Sunday and “continues to make steady progress,” a Downing Street spokeswoman told The New York Times today, noting that, “he remains in intensive care."

In other news of London-based responses to the pandemic, the city's famed Black Cabs — which have a privacy divider between drivers and passengers — will now transport those with symptoms of COVID-19 to their doctors for other non-emergency ailments, thanks to a partnership with the NHS and taxi platform Gett, according to Mashable.

General secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, Steve McNamara, stressed that London's Black Cabs are "proud to be part of this initiative to support Londoners and the NHS by getting people who need to see their GPs to their appointments quickly and safely," according to the news site.

In addition, there is a new approach to boarding London buses by their middle, not their front, doors, according to a Transport of London statement, in response to driver-safety concerns.

“London’s hard-working transport workers are making a heroic effort at the frontline of the fight against this pandemic, and it is only right we consider everything we can to protect them,” Transport for London director of bus operations Claire Mann said.

U.K. inventors have also responded to the pandemic crisis.

In late March, a team including members from the University College London and Mercedes Formula One, developed a modified Cpap-based device to help sick patients breathe and stay out of the ICU.

“These devices will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used only for the most severely ill,” said professor Mervyn Singer, a University College London Hospital (UCLH) critical care doctor involved in the development of the device.