NEW wards at Hereford County Hospital are finally open after long delays due to coronavirus and flooding.

The new wards, replacing the 1940s huts, were meant to be handed over to the Wye Valley NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, at the beginning of July.

But that date was missed, along with the August 9 handover which chief executive Glen Burley said he was hoping for.

In a report published ahead of the trust board on December 2, Mr Burley said the final handover date was set to be December 21.

Saying it was "the perfect Christmas present", the chief executive said there were a number of setbacks with the new wards, which will have 72 beds, an increase of 18 overall.

He said not only did the coronavirus pandemic affect the project, but in summer 2021 there was a "serious fault" with the fire sprinkler system which caused "major flooding".

Charge nurse Mike Wallis tweeted: "And we are in! First ward opened today in the new frailty block.

Three wards, acute frailty, SDEC [same day emergency care] and frailty orthopaedics. Very exciting times for frailty services in Herefordshire."

Medical division deputy general manager Kat Barker also took to Twitter saying: "We are finally into our first-floor new Frailty ward.

"We all had goosebumps seeing the patients settle into these amazing facilities. So proud of all the team and every single person that volunteered to help."

Director of nursing Lucy Flanagan tweeted: "Amazing environment for our vulnerable patients.

"I loved helping move them in to the new ward today. Great team vibe."

Mr Burley said in a report to the December 2 board meeting: "The replacement of our old hutted Wards has long been an ambition of the trust.

"Our initial challenge was to make the case for replacement and to secure the funding," he said, with the trust securing £23.6 million for the work.

“We opted for a modular design solution in order to speed up their operational availability.

"We also realised that the marginal cost of a three ward build, as opposed to the two that we were replacing, was worth the increased capital investment."

He said the initial hope was that the wards, visited by Boris Johnson in August 2020, could have become operational in early 2021, but Covid caused setbacks.

"Then, just as we were about to accept handover in the summer, the building was subjected to a serious fault of the fire safety sprinkler system which resulted in major flooding and a resultant need to assess, remedy and rebuild," he said.

"I am now delighted to report that we are on track for a final handover date of December 21.

"Our ward move schedule is still draft as we work through the complications of moving two Covid wards as part of the plan.

"Currently we plan to move into all three new wards before New Year. Beyond that, there is a six-week period of renovation for the two existing wards and then the final moves happen in February will see the hutted wards close.

"Demolition has been tendered and is currently being scheduled – there may be quite a queue to press the button."