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Field hospital opens with the hope it is never needed

Eyleen Gomez

The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, visited the new Nightingale Field Hospital at Europa Point on Wednesday.

A cohort of other dignitaries and officials were also present.

“I hope that this is the biggest waste of time and money that the Government of Gibraltar has ever embarked upon and that this place is idle,” said Mr Picardo.

“But look, seeing the experiences of other countries, we want to make sure that there is no resident of Gibraltar that ends up having to lie on a corridor because there isn’t a bed available for him or her when they need us in the context of this pandemic.”

Mr Picardo stated that it was remarkable what Gibraltar can achieve when everyone is rowing in the same direction.

“We have seen people here like Stuart Bensadon starting this process from scratch and then the GHA taking over to ensure that the standards of St Bernard’s are brought to Europa, and if you are brought here instead of St Bernard’s you will have the same standard of care from our matrons, from our nursing staff,” he said.

“Everyone has been superb and I cannot go through the list of people who have made this a reality because I will leave people out.”

“In slower order we will be able to thank everybody who has made this a reality in less than three weeks.”

On how he felt when walking into the facility and seeing the hundreds of beds, he called it “horrific.”

“I think one of the issues that we are going to have to deal with in coming weeks, if this pandemic manifests in Gibraltar in the way that we are advised that it might, is the emotions of having to lose so many Gibraltarians in a short space of time,” he said.

“I hope that does not happen but we have to be ready for it. The Government would not be forgiven for not having done everything we could with the whole of team Gibraltar to be ready for this situation.”

“But, I sincerely hope that because of Gibraltar being slightly different to other areas, because of us having applied early lockdowns of our 70 year olds, early closure of our catering facilities, then the complete social lockdown, that we have done enough to stop the worst effect of the pandemic by slowing the progress of the virus through our community.”

“You look from the balcony down at the number of beds available, expandable to 300 if we need to go even further, the area for people to be able to have a dignified passing if that is required, our nurses have thought of everything.”

“Our GHA management has given them all the support that they need. But,I sincerely hope that this does not manifest itself as a place where Gibraltarians come to die,” he added.

Dr Krish Rawal, the acting Medical Director, said he was a little bit speechless at how the field hospital had come together.

“It is unbelievable just in itself, even if this had taken months to put into place it would be an amazing achievement. But, given that this has actually been put into place in weeks, and in fact in many cases days, is an unbelievable achievement,” he said.

“I was asked the question earlier if this was a sobering or an uplifting thought and it is mixed emotions for me.”

“It is very uplifting to see GHA now coming into its own creating an incredible thing with a team. We have proven when you put GHA together working as a team, together we can achieve the impossible.”

“But also, it is a bit of a sobering thought to think that we are actually putting potentially up to 300 hundred beds in one place in case we need them,” he added.

On the planning of the field hospital he said the work everyone did was amazing especially as it came together with people working 24/7.

While impressed with the Europa Nightingale Hospital, he also noted the he dearly hopes Gibraltar will never need to use it.

“Of course my appeal will always be to the general public and to the people at home; please, please, please keep up the fight,” he said.

“Please wash your hands. Keep your social isolation and social distancing. If you are over 70, please, please stay at home and let’s just fight this with what we are doing at the moment and let’s all pull together to make sure we don’t need this [field hospital],” he added.

The Minister for Health, Paul Balban, had paid a variety of visits to the facility last month to see the vision materialise.

“I have come up for the odd visit and I have seen this progress the whole way from inception to now,” he said.

“This was originally an empty hall and the first thing that came was the wires, they placed them and then it has been building up as we have gone along.”

“I am extremely impressed and I am really happy and proud of the staff, who have done an extremely good job. Everyone has come together,” he added.

He singled out the nursing team, calling them instrumental in bringing he facility into existence.

He also noted the work of Gibtelecom and Stuart Bensadon from GPML. Mr Bensadon has previous experiences of field hospitals when he was in the army.

Although the event was to show the Chief Minister the facility and to answer any questions, both Dr Rawal and Mr Balban took a moment to thank the nursing staff.

Some of the nurses stood beside hospital beds while the two men walked in between them, clapping, and verbally thanking them for all they have done.

It was a gesture that was clearly appreciated by the medical professionals.

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