Published: 12:26, 20 January 2022
| Updated: 16:12, 20 January 2022
Hospital staff are having to park at an athletics stadium more than a mile from their workplace due to the construction of a Nightingale 'surge hub' in Ashford.
Workers at the William Harvey Hospital are being shuttled to and from the Julie Rose Stadium on minibuses amid a shortage of spaces at the Kennington Road site.
It comes as the hub – which is costing £3.7m but health chiefs hope will never open – is built on the hospital's main car park in anticipation of a wave of Omicron admissions.
Bosses say the Julie Rose is being used as visitors are filling the staff spaces in the hospital grounds – leaving workers without a place to park.
The temporary facility, which is 1.2 miles away, opened on Tuesday and is being manned by a security team.
The shuttle buses are running every 10 to 15 minutes on weekdays from 7am to 11am and 2.30pm to 9pm.
But the East Kent Hospitals Trust – which runs the Harvey – has told staff who can work from home to do so while the Nightingale is in place.
Earlier this week, Ashford MP Damian Green told KentOnline the hub is set to be ready for patients next week.
“I had a virtual meeting with those in charge and they said the earliest patients could go in is Monday [January 24], certainly not before then,” he said.
“But at the moment it looks like the position is stabilising in terms of Covid numbers so everyone hopes it won’t be needed.
“It’s an insurance policy and, like most, you hope you never have to draw on it because it would stretch staffing.
"The money is coming from a national budget, it doesn't come out of our local healthcare budget. It's about £3.7 million and it's coming nationally."
If it does open, the hub will be one of eight new facilities nationwide and will be able to cater for up to 100 people.
It will be led by hospital consultants and nurses, but with other clinical and non-clinical staff brought in with rapid training.
Announcing the new Nightingale units last month, health secretary Sajid Javid said: "We've backed the NHS at every turn throughout this pandemic to make sure it provides the care and treatment people need.
"I want to thank the tireless efforts of our health workers on the frontline who are delivering for patients every day.
"We hope the Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals will not have to be used but it is absolutely right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity."