The state of Hartlepool's 'ancient' hospital has made fighting covid more difficult, according to health chiefs

Hospital bosses have praised staff for their work supporting patients despite having to battle the Covid-19 pandemic ‘in an ancient building’.

Representatives from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said the Covid-19 pandemic has been the ‘biggest professional stress any of us have ever worked with’.

Deepak Dwarakanath, medical director at the trust, told the Hartlepool Health and Wellbeing Board they have had to deal with the pandemic in an ‘ancient’ hospital building at the University Hospital of North Tees.

He said: “We’ve run Covid through an ancient building, this building at North Tees, was designed in the early Sixties and completed I think around 1967, so it’s 50 odd years old and it’s well past its sell by as a structure.

The University Hospital of Hartlepool, part of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust.

“It’s not built for modern infection control practices, we barely have 17% of our beds that are single rooms, so it creates a big issue with regards to separation and stuff.

“We’ve had to manage patients and where you put them in the building very very carefully.”

However Dr Dwarakanath praised staff for their work in the face of such difficulties, and highlighted the importance of providing them support given the stresses of work during this time.

He added: “It has without doubt, and each one of us will say the same, been the biggest professional stress any of us have ever worked with, there’s been an enormous amount of effort and collaboration and innovation to actually ensure that our patients have had the best possible outcome.

“The building is the building, the staff are the people that do the stuff and look after people, if we don’t look after them then they can’t look after the patients, it has been a really high priority.”

Cllr Brenda Harrison, speaking at the meeting, said the situation could have been improved if past decisions had not been taken to close units at Hartlepool’s University Hospital, or if a new hospital had been built in the region.

She said: “If certain decisions hadn’t been made in the past then perhaps we would be in a slightly better position to help, because we have two hospitals between us.

“If they were working to full capacity, and I know Hartlepool has helped out, but if we had two working hospitals, or a replacement which was in the 21st century, and I know nobody here has made those decisions.

“I think the decisions in the past, there hasn’t been any foresight, nobody expected Covid, but surely people in certain positions in life need to plan for the worst thing happening, and the worst thing has happened.”

Dr Dwarakanath added despite the pressures on staff and fears some will be ‘burnt out’ following the pandemic, he is hopeful they may see more people want to come work for the NHS going forward.

He said: “I think it will also attract a lot of staff to the NHS, people will realise what the NHS has been doing, what the organisation as a whole can offer as careers.

“We’re doing a lot of work to actually explain to people the NHS isn’t just about doctors, nurses and porters, we must have 100 different professions and career options, so that’s very important.”

Cllr Shane Moore, Hartlepool Borough Council leader, also praised staff at the trust and thanked them for their efforts during the pandemic.

He said: “We all know what an amazing job you’ve been doing under extremely difficult circumstances.”

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