A temporary 460 bed NHS Nightingale hospital in Washington has officially been opened by Ant and Dec.
The Geordie duo were among a host of local celebrities including Alan Shearer, Brenda Blethyn and Si King who attended the virtual opening ceremony of the hospital at the new Innovation Centre in the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP).
Ant McPartlin described the hospital, which was built over the last month, as a “magnificent feat” and said it would be a symbol of “what the great people of this area are capable of.”
Sunderland is currently the worst affected part of the country from COVID-19 with a rate of 436.9 cases per 100,000 population. 279 people have died from the virus in the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West told SR News: “I had hoped that the Nightingale Hospital at IAMP would never need to be opened. But unfortunately, with high rates of Coronavirus infections in the North East the opening of the Nightingale today is necessary and has to be ready if and when it is needed to relieve pressure off local hospitals and help save lives.
“It acts as a reminder that we all have a part to play in fighting Coronavirus and should stay home and keep our distance from others when we do have to leave the house.”
Hodgson added: “My thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, as well as other individuals who have contracted the virus. I pay tribute to all those working in the NHS who are treating and caring for those with Coronavirus.”
The opening ceremony came just a day after the Nightingale hospital in London’s Docklands would be placed on ‘standby’ as other hospitals in the capital were coping with capacity.
NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens hinted that the hospital may be used for rehabilitation of coronavirus patients, saying: “whether it is for coronavirus patients, or convalescence or rehabilitation or other types of patients, it makes complete sense to have this reserve capacity that the Nightingale Hospitals represent.”
Paying tribute to those who worked on the hospital, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said at the opening ceremony: “We all hope that these extra beds will not all have to be used but I know you built this facility in a way that means you can adapt the hospital to changing clinical needs as work through the emergency and into the recovery phase continues.