Jersey’s Government won’t be hoping for a white Christmas this year… because the £14m Nightingale Hospital could buckle under the strain of snow on its roof, it has emerged.
The 180-bed hospital was built at Millbrook playing fields to provide additional bed capacity for patients who need ventilation but not intensive care as part of Jersey’s response to the covid pandemic.
The structure – an Evolution II model hired from Neptunus, which took four weeks to erect – also includes areas for patient admissions and discharge, staff changing and rest facilities, and a morgue.
Since its completion in May, the facility has fortunately not had to be called upon to accept patients.
Pictured: The Nightingale Wing is based at Millbrook Playing Field, St. Lawrence.
However, the Government decided in August to extend the facility lease until March 2021 in case the island suffers a second wave of covid this winter.
But now its emerged in the contract for the hospital structure – released following a request made by Express under the Freedom of Information Law – that the structure could be vulnerable if the island gets a particularly cold spike.
It says that it does not have “a snow loading” and that the Government must therefore provide a “full snow management plan” to ensure that it doesn’t get overburdened.
Pictured: The Government must ensure snow does not accumulate on the roof, as it does not have a "snow loading", under the terms of its contract.
Depending on the type of snowfall, the weight – and therefore downward pressure it can exert – varies. Light, uncompacted snow is around 60kg per cubic metre, while settled snow can be upwards of 130kg per cubic metre.
The last case of heavy snowfall in Jersey was in March 2018, leading flights to be cancelled and schools to be closed.
The Nightingale Hospital structure has already been once damaged earlier this summer, suffering from a leak after it was battered by a severe thunderstorm in late June.
Express revealed in July that two specialist operatives from Neptunus had to travel to the island to fix seals between panelling on the building that were torn apart during the high-speed winds and torrential rain.
Video: Specialists had to be sent over to deal with the storm damage to the facility in June.
While the Government acknowledged that the structure does not meet European standards for snow loading, a spokesperson said the likelihood of enough snow settling on the roof to impact the structure was “extremely low.”
The spokesperson also claimed that any snow that collected would "begin to melt immediately" because “the [Nightingale'] roof temperature is the same as inside the building."
Asked about the structure’s ability to deal with hailstones, they added: “As the roof is a tensioned skin, it acts as a drum so the hailstones bounce and roll to the gutters. The gutters are supported by the spaceframe edge beam and column system and can easily support the load of a hailstone shower.”
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