A campaign to save an East London hospital from closure so it can treat homeless Covid-19 patients has been given the green light after NHS England promised to fund it as needed.
Last week we reported on the efforts of activists from the Museum of Homelessness and Streets Kitchen when they teamed up with Islington Council – in a bid to lobby the government for funding that could offer rough sleepers with coronavirus a place at Mildmay Hospital to receive treatment.
Now bosses at the specialist HIV hospital, which has been threatened with closure, have heard from NHS England that they will receive the necessary funding to help take the pressure off other hospitals.
— Mildmay UK (@MildmayUK) March 31, 2020
Mildmay can accommodate rough sleepers in up to 12 rooms – and beds are needed so desperately that the hospital is taking in patients ahead of the funding reaching them.
Hospital chief executive Geoff Coleman told The Big Issue that the facility is already close to full capacity, weeks before the predicted peak of the pandemic in the UK.
The future remains uncertain for Mildmay, which needs £5 million in government funding if it is to stay open for the next year.
But for now a hospital spokesperson says staff are focused on “playing [their] part in this National Emergency”.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, as part of the campaign to open up the hospital to rough sleepers the signatories said they were “deeply concerned” by the lack of planning for street homeless people in London as the COVID-19 pandemic deepened.
The campaigners said there was clear evidence that rough sleepers are significantly more at risk during the pandemic due to a higher rate of underlying health conditions like chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.
“Given the extreme level of risk to this population, we are asking that MHCLG divert emergency funding as soon as possible to the Mildmay Hospital which stands ready to admit patients experiencing homelessness for specialist care,” the letter said.
Since the hospital received word that the funding would be granted, the Museum of Homelessness said it was “amazing to see it a reality”.
They added: “We so hope it will save lives in our community.”