If people around the world recognise or associate one building with Cardiff, it’s probably the Principality Stadium.

Renowned for it’s atmosphere, its central location and the legendary sporting events it hosts.

But now it’s known for something entirely different that nobody would have ever predicted, and in truth nobody will want to visit.

The cathedral of Welsh sport is now the largest field hospital in the country, with capacity to look after hundreds of patients.

On Monday Ysbyty Calon Y Ddraig, the Dragon’s Heart Hospital, officially opened.

A simulation technician takes part in medical training inside a ward
(Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Dummy patients are laid in beds inside a ward
(Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

The event on Monday had all the trappings of the usual official opening. Plenty of dignitaries, some politicians, a few speeches followed by polite applause and organisers rushing around. There was even a plaque unveiling.

But this time everyone had to wear hi-vis vests, people were told to sit at least three seats apart and there were definitely no handshakes.

The Prince of Wales spoke at the ceremony with a pre-recorded video filmed from his Birkhall home in Scotland.

Prince Charles said the field hospital is a “huge source of pride” and how Covid-19 has changed the world we live in.

He said: “It has now been weeks since our lives were changed in so many far-reaching ways by this pernicious virus. We have seen streets become empty and workplaces fall silent.

“But we have also seen individuals and communities meeting these strange new circumstances with the age-old values of generosity and courage that the people of Wales have always understood so well.

“We hope and trust that the measures which have been taken, and the hardship that so many are enduring, will help hasten the day when the shadow of this disease will finally be lifted.”

(Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

(Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

Just like how our lives have been stripped away by the virus, so has the stadium.

Corridors once full of fans and stewards have been replaced with nurses’ stations and monitoring equipment. Function rooms normally packed full of business people are now wards. Coveted boxes overlooking the pitch are full of hospital beds. It looks like a hospital, it sounds like a hospital, and it even smells like a hospital.

Where the pitch is normally found had now been covered with one of the largest tents in Europe. The huge white structure covers the whole pitch and will be home for sick patients if hospitals can’t cope.

Yet to care for a patient, it’s the largest temporary hospital in Wales and the second largest in the UK, providing up to 2,000 additional beds for Covid-19 patients.

One ward will be for patients who have had Covid-19 but can’t yet go home.

A map of the new Dragon’s Heart Hospital
(Image: Getty Images)

Hospital beds seen within a private box at the stadium
(Image: Getty Images)

If there’s a significant increase in cases across Wales then patients will start to be admitted.

But everyone at the opening hopes it won’t come to that.

Executive medical director of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Stuart Walker said: “We planned this because we know in the worst case we will need all of this capacity, and in the best case we won’t – and we hope for the best.”

Prince Charles’ video message at the opening
(Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Staff practice social distancing while listening to pre-recorded message from Prince Charles during the opening

(Image: Getty Images)

The temporary hospital has already opened its first 330 beds but has not yet welcomed its first patient.

It will care for patients who are coming to the end of their treatment for Covid-19 and require rehabilitation and support, or end-of-life palliative care.

Facilities include mobile x-ray, CT scanners and care for people in the last weeks or days of their lives.

Training has been underway and on one ward some beds have mannequins tucked in, with nurses working on scenarios earlier on Monday.

Health board executive nurse director Ruth Walker said: “I think no nurse at this moment in time will tell you very clearly their level of anxiety about caring for patients, and that’s because they want to do the right thing.

“But it’s a scary time, so we need to make sure we’re giving them everything they need.”


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