Two hotels in Basildon and Brentwood are to be converted into makeshift community halfway houses to free up almost 300 beds in hospital wards to fight the coronavirus.
The Holiday Inn in Brentwood, says conversations have taken place, but no firm decision has been made as yet to use that facility.
Essex County Council (ECC) is agreeing additional funding of £7.4million for adult social care to secure 297 beds in two hotels for temporary use as community beds, to support discharge from hospitals in Essex.
It follows a previous urgent decision which authorised ECC to secure 1,200 beds, at a peak, in the market at a cost of £18.6 million.
This previous decision assumed an initial baseline need of 300 beds, rising to the full 1,200 for a limited period.
However, ECC has determined it is necessary to buy beds at a faster rate than previously forecast.
Mike Mackrory, leader of the Lib Dem opposition at ECC, who agreed for the decision to pass, said: “We have to free up spaces for those people who can be safely discharged.
“So this will mean converting hotels into a halfway house for these people.
“It’s a pretty drastic step but the more cases we get the more hospital beds we will need to free up.”
ECC has already taken steps to procure additional care home beds through its Integrated Residential and Nursing framework, and is moving on to purchasing other beds through spot arrangements.
The council is now seeking agreement to source exclusive use of two hotels to secure further beds for people being discharged, to continue to support hospital flow in the coming weeks.
A statement as a part of a cabinet decision said: “The council has been sourcing beds quicker than previously anticipated due to the need to secure beds ahead of the demand materialising, and therefore needs to now look at other alternatives to secure the remaining capacity required to support this peak time.
“If demand estimates change, the council may need to seek to source further hotels to increase capacity, but at this time, with staffing challenges across the board, it is felt that two hotels will be manageable.
“The recent advice for people to stay at home means that hotels have little business and are temporarily closing, giving the council the opportunity to take on exclusive use of them.”
ECC’s trading company, Essex Cares Limited (ECL), said it would be able to mobilise in two weeks to manage and run one of the sites.
The council would then look for ECL to follow shortly after this period, to have the next site operational within three to four weeks.
The statement said “staffing of these sites will be a challenge” and will be based on making maximum use of staff from day centres and use of the Essex Welfare Scheme, other recruitment opportunities, as well as the council’s own volunteer and redeployment scheme.
The statement added: “It is proposed that the hotel contracts will be for an initial period of three months with a rolling one-month extension thereafter (up to a maximum of six months), subject to negotiation with each provider.
“The demand for this capacity will need to be frequently reviewed so that the contract can be ended if it is not required for the full six months.”