Principality Stadium returns to rugby after months as a COVID hospital

Principality Stadium, Wales’ national rugby arena in Cardiff, has been returned to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) after more than six months as a field hospital.

It will take another two months before the 74,000-capacity arena, which was officially opened as the Dragon’s Heart Hospital in April, is ready to again host events. Work is set to be completed in January just ahead of the start of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations series in early February.

Identified as a key part of NHS Wales’ response to COVID-19, it took just two weeks for more than 600 workers to transform the site from home of Welsh rugby to a field hospital that could accommodate up to 2,000 patients through collaboration between parties including Cardiff Council, Welsh Rugby Union and the Armed Forces. Just 46 patients were ultimately admitted to the hospital during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.

Martin Driscoll, deputy chief executive at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “On behalf of CAVUHB and all of the staff and patients we provide services for, thank you for this incredible feat and for enabling us to reassure our communities we were prepared for whatever the pandemic threw at us, the DHH and its iconic place- the stadium has shown us team sport at its very best and this is true of how everyone responded – Diolch yn Fawr, thank you.”

The entire site – originally known as Millennium Stadium from 1999 to 2016 – was made available to the NHS, with facilities including an onsite pharmacy, mobile x-ray, CT scanners, and rehabilitation and support as part of the recovery process from the illness.

Patients were cared for by dedicated teams of Cardiff and Vale UHB staff, along with Wales Ambulance Service NHS Trust and St John’s Ambulance Cymru helping ensure patients were safely transferred.

Steve Phillips, CEO at WRU, said: “Being able to offer Principality Stadium to the National Health Service and Welsh Government to assist in the fight against COVID-19 has been a privilege. The Dragon’s Heart Hospital demonstrates the extent of successful collaboration and what can be achieved when people in Wales come together; and I’m extremely proud of the WRU staff who played a key part in the successful development and delivery of the temporary surge hospital within our stadium.

“We agreed with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board that the stadium was to be handed back to us mid-November and we can now begin work on reinstating the stadium, as we look forward to the Guinness Six Nations in 2021.”

Wales are playing their four home autumn international games at the 15,000-capacity Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli.

Image: Principality Stadium