Retired ventilators may be brought back into use as part of the response in Essex to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr David Walker, chief medical officer at Mid Essex Hospitals NHS Trust said that the service had enough ventilators for the intensive care unit (ICU) spaces, but ventilators at their “end of life” might be refurbished to increase the total number that can be used.
Public Health England says one in every 20 coronavirus patients could need critical care, based on China’s experience.
Speaking at a health board meeting at Broomfield Hospital on Wednesday (March 11), Dr Walker added: “We could use additional space, like recovery areas for example, so we are looking at site teams to look into that.”
There are now seven cases of coronavirus in Essex after another patient was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
There are now six cases in areas governed by Essex County Council and one in Southend-on-Sea.
There have also been two cases confirmed in nearby Havering and another in Waltham Forest, as well as one in Enfield and one in Barking and Dagenham.
It is expected that the UK will now focus on delaying its spread as opposed to containing the disease, after the World Health Organisation labelled the outbreak as a pandemic.
Dr Walker added that health services are now planning to move from containment to the next stage of delay.
“So we are putting arrangements in place so we have local incident management teams on each site which have clinical operational and expert involvement and they are developing and exercising their plans for managing larger number of cases and at the end of the week we will have a gap analysis of all of those plans for opportunities to improve further,” he said.
The NHS generally has declared the outbreak as a level four incident, which means there is a command and control level, working down from a national team to regional leadership teams which hospitals are in communication with every day.
Dr Walker added: “Our priorities are keeping our workforce safe through proper protocols and personal protective equipment and isolating staff who are exposed.
“Our major clinical priority is to protect our intensive care facilities because for most people it’s a very mild illness but for a small proportion they have respiratory problems which requires intensive care support.
“We are looking at ways of increasing our capacity using additional spaces, additional equipment and the best use of our staff.”
There are now a total of 590 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
Outside of London, the area most affected by the coronavirus is Hertfordshire, Essex’s neighbouring county, with 18 cases.
Dr Walker added: “And we are also looking at how we would go on to manage large numbers of cases in hospital, and the flexible use of our workforce to support key areas that might need to be prioritised.
“We are working though potential impacts on business as usual in addition to how we manage the patients who might be affected by the outbreak.”