The old tuberculosis wards at St Mary's Hospital in Dublin's Phoenix Park have been renovated as a rehabilitation hospital for Covid-19 patients.
The new Covid-19 hospital will cater for between 75 and 90 patients with the first expected to be admitted from the Mater Misericordiae Hospital on May 11.
The new hospital adjoins St Mary's nursing home where more than 20 older residents have died since an outbreak earlier this month.
In the setting where patients recovered from TB in the last century, the Covid-19 wards will provide a mix of single rooms, two-bed and three-bed wards facing into the gardens. The project was undertaken with the Mater and Ireland East Hospital Group six weeks ago. The facility will be open to patients in all hospitals in the group and will be staffed by healthcare teams from the group.
Dr Dermot Power, a consultant geriatrician at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, confirmed that the first group of 25 Covid-19 patients are expected to be admitted to the new beds on May 11.
"It will be for patients of all ages," he said. "A younger cohort of Covid-19 patients are quite disabled by what happened to them. Prolonged stays in intensive care lends itself to muscle wasting and other problems."
Dr Power said the new building will also ensure "a bigger medical presence" for the nursing home on the St Mary's campus.
He said there will be greater faster access to the laboratory and other services for all the services on site.
Dr Power has been assisting staff at St Mary's after Dr Chei Wei Fan, a community geriatrician, fell ill with the virus. She had been helping staff in the nursing home to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 that ultimately ended in nearly half the 150-plus residents contracting the virus and in the deaths of more than 20. Dr Fan is recovering in the Mater from a period in intensive care.
The Mater Hospital took on the testing of nursing home residents and staff are being tested by the Mater's laboratories. The fast turnaround of tests allowed medical staff to isolate residents quicker, which has been enormously effective in containing the contagion.
"By offering a faster turnaround for the staff as well, we've managed, I hope, to calm the situation down. And in the last week to 10 days we have had no new cases," said Dr Power.
The new faculties will bring the number of beds on the St Mary's campus to close to 300.
The move to discharge Covid-19 patients from hospitals will also free up beds, as hospitals start to increase medical services and procedures.