From London To New York, Empty Hotels May Turn Into Coronavirus Hospitals

Main Photo: The Hotel St Olav, Trondheim – a Patient Hotel in Norway

Date: March 2020

Locations: Global

Name: Holiday Inn Hotel London Heathrow is the first

No. of Keys: As many as it needs

Who’s Done What Thus Far: As hospitals from London to New York face the increasing risk of bed shortages due to the coronavirus, could hotels–which are being emptied out by the global crisis–be the answer? Best Western Great Britain is one of those considering the option of turning hotels into temporary hospitals as additional bed space is needed.

In mid February 2019, the Holiday Inn Hotel London Heathrow (was known to many as The Aerial – a hotel in the round) turned into a hospital coronavirus quarantine…

Sources told The Independent newspaper that the hotel has been block booked as a potential quarantine zone for international visitors to the UK who develop coronavirus or for Britons evacuated to the UK from overseas…..by the UK government NHS – National Health Service, we are guessing.

Guests booked at the three-star hotel, which is operated under franchise from the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), have been transferred to sister hotels.

A spokesman for the IHG group told The Independent the hotel had been “block booked” and he could not comment further.

An NHS accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral and a hotel and conference centre at Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes have already been used to quarantine people evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic accounting for about a third of global cases, and deaths. This is placing immense pressure on hospitals, particularly in Italy and Spain, but also in the UK.

Best Western has 260 independently owned and managed hotels across England, Scotland and Wales, which could be repurposed. It plans to discuss the plan with its members this week (March 15th 2020), of easing the pressure on over-crowded hospitals, which are struggling to find beds for all patients. Between them they could muster up almost 15,000 bedrooms as makeshift wards.

“We are in unprecedented territory so we would be willing to take unprecedented steps to support the national effort,” the group’s chief executive Rob Paterson, told leading UK hospitality industry magazine The Caterer on Sunday.

“If the NHS (National Health Service) wants additional bed space, and we can partner with other companies to provide the right medical equipment and supplies and do it safely, then we would be willing to start having those conversations immediately. Whatever we can do to help.”

UJ’s Coventry Telegraph soon after reported the owner of the luxury Windmill Village Hotel Golf Club & Spa in Coventry, offering up beds to coronavirus sufferers. The 100-room property goes under the Best Western Plus brand.

More recent update: (19th March 2020) The hotel brand says 15,000 rooms and more than 1,000 meeting spaces will be available to NHS staff, care workers, families, low-risk patients and over-70s to take the strain off hospital wards when the Covid-19 pandemic peaks.

“Since our offer to help at the weekend we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from our hotels,” said Andrew Denton, head of hotel services at Best Western Great Britain.

“Local hospitals, councils and local authorities have also been in touch directly asking for help and today we are re-purposing our technology and our call centre to manage the interest and the demand.

“We would love to plug our supply and support into the NHS system in a coordinated and organised manner.

He urged other hotel chains to join Best Western in pledging support.

Other Ways to Help: Nasdaq listed Trip.com Group, has announced that it will donate one million surgical masks to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

As of today, and led by the company’s co-founder and chairman, James Liang, the initiative has seen the delivery and allocation of surgical mask supplies to Japan, Korea, Canada, and France, among others.

Trip.com Group Chairman James Liang, said “Many ways, to join one journey. Many origins, to reach one destiny. Many friends, to form one family. Many endeavours, to win one victory. It is crucial at this moment in the global fight against the epidemic that all countries come together and support each other, to secure a victory for humanity.”

The move to donate masks is the latest in a series of actions taken by the online travel services provider to minimise impact and beat the epidemic.

As the situation continues to develop, the company has provided daily updates on travel restrictions via its platforms and extended the scope of its cancellation policies to include medical workers as well as those unable to travel due to restrictions and infection.

“We are faced with a great challenge, but amidst these hardships, we’ve learned that we are all part of a larger entity, and we’re all in this together. We are moved by Trip.com Group’s generosity in, of its own volition, extending its support,” said Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton.

And If Thousands Of Empty Hotel Rooms Converted To Coronavirus Wards – The ramifications of such a move go much further than hotels in Britain, given the group is part of Phoenix based Best Western International, which has over 4,000 hotels in 80 countries worldwide. All hotels are run independently so the final decision would come down to individual owners. If the idea gains traction, and a government nod of approval, it could well snowball internationally.

The vision already has some government support in Britain. Best Western’s comments came after the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, told the BBC that vacant hotels could instead be “ready-built facilities for looking after people”.

“The critical thing is that [the hotels] need oxygen supply and the ventilation equipment–whether it’s the invasive ventilation or just the mask on your face. So what matters is not just the space, it’s making sure that the equipment and the trained staff are there as well,” he said.

The US too is predicted to run out of capacity to absorb the surging outbreak: “medical teams are tallying hospital beds”, and hospitals dealing with the pandemic face a “dire shortage” of places for patients reports The Washington Post. In New York, the coronavirus could “overwhelm hospitals,” says The New York Times, as many hospitals plan to cancel all but emergency surgeries, as they are already doing in France.

“We are not prepared to deal with a rapid and severe surge of patients,” Dr. Christopher M. Tedeschi, an emergency physician and assistant professor at the Columbia University Medical Center told the Times.

A USA TODAY analysis “shows that if the nation sees a major spike, there could be almost six seriously ill patients for every existing hospital bed,” the paper reports. While in Lebanon, Suleiman Haroun, president of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, told Al-Monitor “that it is impossible to fully dedicate hospitals for the treatment of coronavirus cases as hospitals receive about 8,000 patients on a daily basis, some of which are serious cases,” the news site reports.

Meanwhile the same scenario of empty hotels is being played out globally, as the tourism and hospitality industry in some country’s face their darkest days ever. In the US, the travel sector says it’s definitely the worst period since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“It’s a disaster,” says Michel Tschann, general manager of two hotels on the French Riviera including The Splendid Hotel & Spa Nice. “We have already been forced to close the spa and bar, now with less and less guests coming, we might have to close the hotel too.”

Now if only some of these ghost hotels could use their beds for a good, even urgent cause.

THPT Comment: Why Not? We at THPT have been working on a project, pre-coronavirus, to build 200-room, budget style hotels on hospital grounds around the UK, to house non-acute medical patients, especially the elderly and long-term patients, to free up much needed beds for incoming patients. Several examples are prevalent in Scandinavia, such as the Rigshospitalet “Patient Hotel” in Denmark.

First Seen: Forbes

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