Suffolk hotels ‘willing to open up as hospitals’ to help NHS in coronavirus crisis
Hotels in Suffolk have offered to provide NHS beds and “open up as hospitals” if wards find themselves swamped with coronavirus patients.
Bed and breakfasts, as well as larger venues, have also offered to provide accommodation for doctors and nurses who may need to self-isolate during the crisis, as well as recovering patients.
With hotels empty since the start of the pandemic at what would otherwise be their busiest time of the year, the 19 members of the Sudbury and Lavenham Hoteliers Association have teamed up to offer 200 beds to the NHS.
They could be used by staff who want to avoid infecting relatives or coronavirus patients themselves, in a bid to free up beds at Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals.
Hoteliers association chairman Frank Lawrenson, who also owns Sudbury’s Rectory Manor Hotel, likened the scenario to the First and Second World Wars, when guesthouses became military hospitals while tourism was on the wane.
“Our industry has the capacity to rapidly repurpose our businesses to help the community,” he said.
“If the NHS needs additional bed space and we can do it safely, then potentially we can start taking vulnerable people in immediately.
“We have seen lots of emails with requests for assistance.
“We very much take the view that we are empty. We’ve got people who would like to work and a lot of people who rely on their jobs and, on the flip side of the coin, we’ve got the NHS which needs accommodation.
“That’s an area where we can help.
“Some of the people who are looking for accommodation might be doctors or nurses who’ve gone into self-isolation but don’t want to do that in their home.
“There might also be a need to move patients out of hospital who are in that recovery phase.
“You’ve got all sorts of different groups of people who just might need a place to stay while this is going on, so it makes sense to see if we can repurpose our accommodation to see if we can do something valuable to help.
“We’ve got hotels willing to open up as hospitals. It’s not our area of expertise but we’re willing to do our bit.”
James Sanders, general manager at the Swan Hotel in Lavenham, added: “We are now in the midst of a pandemic that threatens not just our communities but also the local economy.
“This crisis highlights how we are all in this together. What we need now is that ‘war time spirit’ of everyone pulling together and making a difference.
“We can re-task what we do to help the NHS, save lives and protect jobs.
Peter Osborne, of The Stoke by Nayland Hotel said: “I know the authorities are currently evaluating a number of options, but locally we stand ready to help and ready to offer emergency accommodation.
“I am proud that as a group of hoteliers we had the creativity of thought to think about what might be needed weeks ago and take the initiative early.
“Given the hurdles in bureaucracy, the NHS together with our local councils are doing a truly remarkable job of pulling beds together from a variety of sources and I hope we can be of assistance to them.”
Graham McGregor, general manager at Hintlesham Hall hotel, added: “Many of our premises have had past experience of re-repurposing during times of crisis - like Hintlesham Hall, which became a hospital during the Second World War, and Rectory Manor, which was used a base for the home guard.”
Elsewhere across the country, conference centres have been turned into hospitals - with 2,000 beds created at the NEC in Birmingham and 4,000 beds London’s ExCel Centre.