Dozens of coronavirus patients in London are set to be transferred from their hospital beds to a hotel to free up space for critical cases.
The London Hotel Group has converted 107 rooms at its four-star Best Western Plus in Croydon, south London, to act as a quarantine facility for recovering patients at King’s College Hospital.
Sky News understands at least one person has already arrived and is in isolation, although it is not yet clear how many more will join.
The group says it is also in talks with 20 other NHS Trusts to continue expanding capacity.
Rooms at the Croydon hotel will be prioritised firstly for the homeless and vulnerable who are well enough to be discharged but have nowhere else to isolate.
They will be taken to the hotel by ambulance.
Showing Sky News around the facility, area manager Alex Palaghiu stressed the importance of supporting the NHS during “this unprecedented time”.
He explained: “A lot these patients will be coming from COVID wards, and when they arrive they will be sent straight to a room to isolate.
“We have set up a separate entrance for them to enter the hotel… they will be met by a member of staff in full PPE.”
A specially designated COVID-19 pathway and elevator will also help guide the guests to their rooms, where they will stay for 10 to 14 days, or until their course of treatment is complete.
Their only human contact during this time will be with hospital workers. Hotel staff will be prohibited from entering the rooms.
Meals will be delivered in brown paper bags three times a day, and will be left outside each door.
Fresh sheets and towels will also be dropped off once a week.
“I’m not nervous about this at all. It is completely safe,” Mr Palaghiu said of the new venture. “We have enough PPE and procedures in place to provide a safe environment for guests and staff.
“There is a strict protocol in place with the NHS for patients who arrive here to remain in their rooms. They will be aware of the rules.”
As part of these rules, patients will not be allowed visitors, nor will they be able to smoke. Each of the rooms will include an air-conditioning unit to minimise airborne contaminants.
London is currently under huge strain, with rapidly spreading infections caused by the new variant of COVID-19.
Just last week, Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” as cases continued to soar across the capital, placing further pressure on hospitals.
There are currently 7,607 patients with COVID-19 in hospital in London – 1,085 of whom are on ventilators.
Overall, a total 10,122 people have died with coronavirus in the city, with two east London hospital trusts each recording more than 1,000 deaths at their facilities.
“The death toll is just so tragic, and we are desperate to just help out where we can,” hotel general manager Leo Johnson told Sky News.
He added: “It is a bit different to the normal guests we usually get, but our aim is to make people feel at home here while they get better.”
While operating as a hospital, the hotel will be staffed by a team working at the front desk along with several housekeepers who will have no direct contact with any patients.
“I have five staff members working for me and they are all happy and looking forward to helping”, said housekeeping manager Alina Csoszor.
“Every two hours we will be cleaning the hotel. We also have special bags for linen and rubbish which the patients will put out and we will have removed.
“We have transformed the hotel into a hospital and a safe place for people needing help.”
The hospitality sector has been brought to its knees by the pandemic amid ongoing stay-at-home measures, travel bans, and other restrictions.
This has left many looking for unique and alternative ways to survive the economic fallout.
In line with this, Best Western has also announced it will be providing accommodation to NHS frontline workers who have tested positive for the disease – stressing its other hotels “are ready to step in”.
“We are talking to NHS England, but every day counts at the moment; people are dying in their beds because of this virus, which is hard to take because we have a viable, proven, workable solution,” said Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western.
“We just need a green light from NHS England or the government and we can roll this out nationally tomorrow.”
Turning his attention to the chief executive of the NHS and the health secretary, he added: “Sir Simon Stevens; Matt Hancock, please speak to us.”
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