Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, we were asked by our client, the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, to bring forward all inpatient bedrooms at the under-construction Grange Hospital nine months ahead of schedule. 

Victoria Head

Victoria Head

Nicola Jones

Nicola Jones

Within 24 hours, we and a counterpart at Laing O’Rourke had a plan, and within a week the Welsh government had signed it off – the removal of red tape creating speed, flexibility and efficiency.

On the Cardiff and Vale University hospital sites, we were already working on a pre-planned isolation ward; but with only 10 beds, our team was also tasked with converting live wards to Covid-19 beds.

The following weeks were among the most challenging, stressful and emotional our teams had faced. Covid-19 was an unknown, the two-metre guidance was in place, full PPE was required in many areas and new safety procedures were introduced, which created problems for some subcontractors who would not work as a result.

One team was working in live wards, climbing through windows for access while patients and staff were protected by sealed plastic sheeting. As the pandemic grew, plans had to change, including the important commodity of oxygen supplies for Covid-19 wards.

The Grange Uni Hospital Oct 2020 0054

The Grange Uni Hospital

Accessing materials became a real issue; no one was building steel frames and there was no plaster or clinical-specification paint to be found, so the call for help went out to local companies, old contacts and competitors. And they all came. The collaboration was incredible. We have both reflected on what was achieved during the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and collaboration was key.

We are used to an industry built on adversarial relationships and litigation, but it does not need to be like that. The future can be fair and equitable, supportive to all parties and understanding of everyone’s objectives. This is what the construction industry did during Covid-19. It stepped up.

Victoria Head is project director and Nicola Jones is project manager at Gleeds. They shared their experience in The Word, a podcast from Women in Property and BECG