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Privateer's failure hits as Liverpool's hospital beds fill up

Union blames lack of capacity for region's Tier-3 status

THAT hospitals in Liverpool are near capacity while a failed privateer’s facility stands idle is a “catastrophic failure,” trade unionists said today.

Unfinished construction work at the new Liverpool Royal Hospital, due to open in 2017 but delayed until 2022 after privateer Carillion collapsed, means that it is unable to accept Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile hospital staff have reported to public-service union Unison that one in five in-patients at the city’s two main hospitals — the old Royal and the Aintree — has coronavirus.

Unison said locally that “urgent measures” were being deployed at the hospitals to deal with increasing difficulties, and that staff illnesses and absences are rising.

Kevan Nelson, Unison’s north-west regional secretary, told the Morning Star that lack of hospital capacity was “a major factor in Liverpool being put into Tier-3 restrictions.”

Parts of the new Royal were opened for coronavirus patients during the pandemic’s first wave.

But Mr Nelson said that the new contractor, Laing-O’Rourke, discovered major defects in the building, including structural faults, which need to be corrected at a cost of £300 million.

TUC north-west secretary Lynn Collins said that what should have been a “state-of-the-art” hospital for Liverpool is “standing idle.”

Figures for the seven days to October 12, released today, showed that Merseyside’s Knowsley and Liverpool had the second and third highest case rates in Britain — coming only behind Nottingham.

Knowsley’s infection rate is up from 615.8 cases per 100,000 people to 716.5, with 1,081 new cases.

And Liverpool’s rose from 603.4 cases per 100,000 people to 680.5, with 3,389 new cases.

“Urgent measures are being implemented to expand critical-care capacity and it is having a severe impact on the health and well-being of staff, with rising levels of sickness and absence,” said Mr Nelson.

“In recent days there has also been the problem of ambulance queuing.”

Paul Brandt, Liverpool City Council lead member for adult health and social care, told the BBC earlier this week that “intensive, critical care beds are filling up very fast.”

“It has become clear that the intensity of the demand on hospital services here in Liverpool is crowding out anything other than dealing with Covid-19.”

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has said that the outbreak is “out of control” in the area and called for “a total national lockdown” instead of regional restrictions.

Today he slammed inconsistencies in the Tier 3 lockdowns of Liverpool and Lancashire — gyms in the latter were allowed to stay open while the same such sites are shut in his region — as an “inconsistent mess.”

Across the UK, some 15,650 more people were reported today as having tested positive for coronavirus.

Several Nightingale hospitals — created to cope with the first wave of coronavirus infections — have been told by the government to be on stand-by for reopening. But Liverpool does not have one. 

The nearest is more than 30 miles away, in Manchester, and will have to cope with admissions from the whole of the north-west including Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Liverpool expects more than 40,000 workers to be laid off due to the new restrictions. 

Many workers will have to survive on 67 per cent of their wages under Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new Job Support Scheme, down from as much as 80 per cent under the winding-down furlough system.

Ms Collins called for more financial support from the government.

“As many as 41,000 workers in the region could see their workplace closed,” she said. “Yet the government’s job-support package remains inadequate.”

The Department of Health and Social Care and Liverpool University Hospitals Trust have been contacted for comment.

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