Coronavirus: Parc y Scarlets and leisure centre offered to NHS

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image source, Geograph/Gordon Griffiths
image captionCarmarthen Leisure Centre is among the buildings being used for additional beds

Leisure centres and other public buildings in Carmarthenshire will be turned into hospital wards to tackle demand triggered by coronavirus.

Carmarthenshire council said on Monday it was working with Hywel Dda health board to convert spaces, such as Carmarthen Leisure Centre.

Parc y Scarlets rugby stadium in Llanelli has offered space for free.

Hywel Dda said the steps were essential to managing "patient flow" critical to fighting the virus.

It came as the number of deaths from coronavirus in Wales rose to 16, with a total of 418 cases.

Councillor Jane Tremlett, Carmarthenshire's member for health and social care, said: "It is critical the NHS and local government pool their expertise in these extraordinary times to ensure we take this emergency action.

"It is only through working together that we can meet these challenges."

The council said contractors would be commissioned in the coming days to convert spaces at Carmarthen Leisure Centre and the Selwyn Samuel Centre, an indoor bowls and exhibition centre in Llanelli.

"Parc y Scarlets has also generously offered a large part of its site and buildings for free to the local authority to convert for the use of the NHS," the council added in a statement.

image source, Geograph/Nick Earl
image captionThe authorities have thanked Parc y Scarlets for offering spaces to the NHS for free

Dr Phil Kloer, medical director at Hywel Dda, said feedback from Italy - where more than 4,800 people have died from the virus - was that patient flow was a "critical factor" in responding to the virus.

"Delivering these additional beds for patients will be essential to help us manage patient flow over the coming weeks and we are extremely grateful for all of the support that we are receiving from our local authority partner to help make this happen," he added.

'At pace'

The council and the health board said developing the facilities "at pace" was their priority in the hope that some elements can be operational by the beginning of May.

Hywel Dda said it was also working "very closely" with Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire councils to develop similar facilities and further information would be provided "as these measures progress".

It came after Llanelli AM, Lee Waters, urged people to be aware of the gravity of the crisis on Twitter, saying local hospitals were converting their canteens into spill-over intensive care units.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Meanwhile, researchers in Oxford say hospitals in Powys could rapidly become "overwhelmed" by coronavirus cases due to the county having an elderly population and relatively few hospital beds.

The academics say Powys is one of five "hospital deserts" in England and Wales, alongside Northumberland, Rutland, the Isle of Wight and Suffolk.

Powys Teaching Health Board has been asked to comment.

Elsewhere, parts of Cwmbran's new Grange University Hospital will open early, the Aneurin Bevan has announced.

The temporary measure should provide 350 more beds by the end of April.

Also, Cardiff council has closed Heath Park car park to the public in order to provide free parking there for doctors, nurses and other vital NHS staff.

Cardiff Metropolitan University has added its weight to the collective effort by loaning two "world-class" diagnostic machines to the armed forces tasked with creating a national Covid-19 diagnostic centre in Milton Keynes.

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