Concern grows as hospital faces oxygen shortage amid coronavirus crisis

Staff at the Royal Free London expressed concern that they could face an oxygen shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic in chilling scenes in tonight’s Hospital special.

Operations manager Rui Reis explained to cameras that the premises had gone through 5,000 cubic metres of oxygen in just two days, whereby that same amount would normally last for one month.

‘We have never ever had to worry about the amount of oxygen that we use on a daily basis,’ director of operations, Rachel Anticoni admitted.

‘We’ve never really dealt with oxygen issues in this way before. We’ve reached a point where we’re almost at capacity with our oxygen flow.’

The senior management team was then called into a meeting to discuss what could happen if capacity is reached, and Rachel asked for predictions.

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‘Your pressure drops tremendously,’ explained a fellow member of staff.

‘You might not be able to achieve 10 litres per minute on a ward with let’s say 10 patients. The system might only be delivering eight litres per minute.

‘You might have a catastrophic failure with pressure drops all over the place.’

They continued: ‘Because we’re pushing the system so hard and it wasn’t tested under those conditions before, ever, we’re not really sure what might happen, really.’

Commenting on the gravity of the situation, Rebecca Longmate, director of nursing, confessed: ‘At the moment, it’s very high risk.’

Elsewhere during the programme, staff feared running out of space to store bodies as mortuary fills up amid pandemic.

‘We’re not full, but we’re nearly full,’ director of operations, Rachel, explained. ‘It’s tight, very, very tight. We’re still preparing for a super surge.

‘Hopefully, we will have planned for capacity that we’ll never use but we need to be 10 steps ahead. It’s quite overwhelming, the enormity of the problem.’

The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has passed 40,000, according to new analysis of the latest official figures, making it by far the worst toll in Europe.

Shocking new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have also revealed that almost 40% of deaths are in care homes.

There were 8,312 coronavirus-related care home deaths registered up to May 1 in England and Wales, the ONS said.

Hospital Special: Fighting Covid-19 is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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