Two graduates have given their unique insight into the pressures building Scotland’s only dedicated coronavirus hospital, NHS Louisa Jordan.
Thomas Rodger and Neil Granger spent hundreds of hours, day and night, working at the 1000-bed facility based at the SEC campus in Glasgow.
Both men have known each other for around 20 years having met whilst studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Heriot-Watt. The friends became colleagues shortly after graduating when they joined the international infrastructure specialists, AECOM, where they work today. They were part of a large team who transformed the SEC into a temporary hospital and played an integral role in designing a suitable electrical infrastructure.
From a personal perspective, it was a rollercoaster of emotions.
This involved modifying the existing electrical systems to provide additional levels of resilience and creating a new generator system to provide backup in the event of a total power failure.
While the pair take pride in the crucial role they played in NHS Louisa Jordan, they admit the task was enormous with just three weeks to build and design a functioning hospital that in normal circumstances would take years. A fact underlined by the Army during a briefing at the start of the project.
Thomas, an Associate Director of Building Engineering at AECOM, recalled: “The briefing was daunting as at the time no one in the room knew how the NHS would be able to cope with the number of patients they would potentially see as a result of Covid-19. The message from the Army was clear, we could not fail otherwise people could die.”
Thomas and Neil’s priority was to ensure the hospital had access to a safe and reliable electrical supply and that supplementary systems were provided to support the facility, including lighting and emergency lighting. They, along with their colleagues, examined lessons learned at the already built London Nightingale Hospital but it quickly became apparent there were going to be significant differences on the Glasgow project.
Neil Granger, Regional Director, explained: “Trying to apply full healthcare standards to a conference facility is an enormous challenge. Although the hospital was deemed as ‘temporary’, it was not to be a traditional ‘field hospital’ and patient safety was to be the key factor in the design approach. Planning, designing and constructing a hospital is normally a process that takes years, not weeks and therefore strategic planning had to start immediately. Outside of the speed of decision making and supply chain limitations, the biggest challenge was converting an exhibition facility into a hospital – two very different things with two very different systems strategies. “
Despite the enormous challenges, the hospital became operational in April, ready to care for patients.
Reflecting on their efforts, Thomas said the project was the chance to be part of something that could genuinely save lives.
He finished: “Whilst we have both worked on key hospital projects before, none have been quite like this. We had just three-weeks to design and build a 1000+ bed hospital! And whilst this is a great achievement, it is also the only project we have ever worked on that we hope is never needed to be used.
“From a personal perspective, it was a rollercoaster of emotions.”