Northern Ireland news

Nightingale 'de-escalated' as Covid hospital with final patients transferred to Mater over Easter weekend

Health Minister Robin Swann and Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle officially opened the Nightingale on April 7 last year as part of Covid surge planning
Seanín Graham

NORTHERN Ireland's Nightingale hospital is to be "de-escalated" this weekend and will no longer treat coronavirus patients.

The Irish News understands that only two ICU patients were being cared in the designated Covid-19 facility yesterday and are to be transferred to the Mater hospital in the north of the city.

The Nightingale is based at the 11-storey Tower Block on the Belfast City Hospital site.

Last month The Irish News revealed proposals to transform the hospital into a centre for complex cancer operations as part of plans to urgently scale up non-Covid care and tackle spiralling waiting lists.

It is understood surgical theatres are re-opening at the massive hospital.

As the number of coronavirus hospital admissions continue to fall, the Mater will become the main Covid hospital.

The Irish News understands there were only five patients treated with the virus in the Mater yesterday while the Royal Victoria Hospital also had five Covid-19 inpatients.

In a statement, the Belfast health trust last night confirmed: "Over the Easter weekend, Belfast City Hospital as a Covid hospital will be de-escalated and this includes the Nightingale ICU.

"The majority of Covid patients will be cared for in the Mater Hospital and this will include those needing ICU care."

The south Belfast hospital became the specialist NHS Nightingale for coronvirus last spring, with the majority of its services transferred to other hospitals. It was stood down after the first wave but re-opened in October following rocketing infection rates.

Last month department officials said health minister Robin Swann agreed the Belfast Nightingale is "prioritised for de-escalation to increase regional complex surgery capacity as quickly as possible".

"As the number of Covid-19 patients reduce further, the Belfast City Hospital will become a green site (non-Covid) serving the region," a spokesman said at the time.

Sources say senior trust management were briefed in March on plans that will see City hospital site - where the north's main Cancer Centre is also located - become a unit for elective cancer operations.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 1,000 red flag cancer procedures have been postponed due to coronavirus pressures.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news