UPGRADE: New £2.5m respiratory ward for crumbling hospital
Nurse's station at North Tees Hospital, in Stockton, Image: Ian Cooper/Teesside Live
A multi-million pound upgrade to a Teesside respiratory ward is to open to patients in the coming weeks.
University Hospital of North Tees is set to see its new £2.5m respiratory support unit open on November 22 as winter pressures loom over the NHS.
Health officials say the new facility in the hospital’s main tower will replace one of two existing respiratory wards to improve infection control and provide a better ventilation system.
Covid patient numbers have held steady since September at the trust.
A total of 46 virus patients were being treated on wards on Monday – with six intensive care unit beds occupied by people with covid.
Meanwhile, neighbouring South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust continues to see high demand – with 85 people receiving covid care at the moment.
The new North Tees unit is to offer better infection control and isolation facilities and better visibility of patients at the ageing site.
It will also include a central “tele-monitoring and alert system” as well as an increased oxygen supply.
Respiratory consultant Vandana Jeebun said covid had shown the existing unit needed “significant modernisation” to cope.
Dr Jeebun added: “One of the early lessons was that we required a bespoke space to be able to better visually monitor our patients who are at high risk of deterioration.
“Traditional ward layouts are unfortunately not designed to facilitate this.
“In addition, we knew that we needed significant changes in the provision of oxygen supply alongside modern ventilation systems to be able to care for many of the sick patients in the right place.”
The work comes amid wider efforts to fund an overhaul and rebuild of North Tees Hospital as the site continues to deteriorate.
Freezing pipes, broken ceiling panels, and leaking roofs are all dogging efforts to keep it fit for purpose.
There is also a staggering £288m repair backlog facing the trust – and it is costing £8m a year just to keep North Tees in its current tired condition.
A member of staff even had to stand with a hose to keep vital oxygen pipes from freezing last winter.
Dr Jeebun said covid challenges had driven them to design a unit to meet the needs of their sickest covid patients and non-virus patients during winter.
“A lot of team work has gone in to meticulously design this bespoke unit,” she added.
“It’s almost ready and the huge investment in time and funds will soon be benefiting patients.”
The latest overhaul has seen walls knocked out, new rooms, and new electrics and oxygen lines installed.
Trust chiefs have lodged a £380m request for a new hospital north of the river through the Government’s Health Infrastructure Fund.
A debate on the hospital was held in Parliament last month with ministers told the state of the crumbling site was putting patients at risk.
Stockton South MP Matt Vickers told the chamber the hospital was “no longer fit for purpose” – and urged ministers to back the trust’s bid.
The Conservative MP said: “Nobody should be greeted by buckets catching water from leaky roofs when sat in A&E, in a ward or when in theatre or losing a loved one.
“At those tough times, we need to do better than that.”
The push for a new site was also backed by Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham during the debate.
The Labour MP added: “I have been calling for a new hospital to be built in Stockton for more than 11 years after the planned one was axed by the then Tory-Lib Dem Government.
“I often wonder what the health of our area would be like if that hospital had gone ahead.”
Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer has also voiced her support for a new hospital.
The trust will find out whether its bid is successful in spring.
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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