By JOHN GILLINGBOURNE, Associated Press – LONDON (AP) As the first people to die in a U.K. hospital in more than 40 years, thousands of people gathered at a makeshift tent at a site where they would wait for their loved ones to be moved.
As the death toll swelled, the mood darkened.
The tent was full of despair.
It was like a funeral in a town of about 2,500.
But the mood wasn’t the only thing that changed as the funeral moved to the adjacent St. Thomas Hospital, a private institution in central London that’s been struggling with a shortage of nurses, doctors and nurses in recent months.
There were no mourners, no signs of anger.
People seemed to be content with their loved one’s death.
A makeshift tent on the site where people are waiting to be buried at St.
Thomas Hospital in London.
The scene at St Thomas Hospital on Saturday.
This is the first time that the hospital has opened its doors to the public in almost a decade.
Many of the people gathered in the tent, known as a casket or casket-raising party, had no idea that they were there.
They knew they were supposed to stay onsite in the building for several days.
But some had been planning for months and had no way to leave.
Dr. Richard Clements, director of nursing at the hospital, told the crowd that the situation was dire, with about 60 patients dying each day.
People who had hoped to be transferred to St. James were instead being kept in the hospital overnight.
The reason is that St. Joseph’s has no bed space.
“We have only a small room for people with a bed in the basement, and there’s no space for the new arrivals,” Dr. Clements said.
St. Joseph has about 400 beds and is only getting them, he said.
The new arrivals will stay in a hotel.
There were also signs of hope.
A group of about 100 people were moving furniture into a nearby shed, where they had been working for weeks.
As the hospital was opened to the general public, the crowds grew.
Some people walked up and down the street holding placards reading “We can’t wait to bury them.”
“I’m not sure what the mood is like,” said Joanna, who asked that her last name not be used out of respect for her dying mother.
I can’t see my mum here but she was a very kind person.
I can’t imagine what she’s going through, she said.
We’re all going to have to deal with it.
Some people were crying in the street, while others hugged each other and prayed.
Everyone wanted to know what it was like to be there, said Anna, who was holding a sign that read: “God is with you.”
I hope you don’t cry, I said to her.
I know that we’re going to cry.
I’m praying for you, she told me.
When I was younger, I had to cry at home, she added.
But I’m now a mum and I’ve been through this a few times, she continued.
It’s not as bad as it used to be, said Lianne, who said she’d been at the casket party to celebrate her 10th birthday.
She said she didn’t want to cry because she thought it was OK to cry in a funeral, but now that she’s older, she feels ashamed to cry and feels like she has to cry all the time.
They’ve got to do something about it, she sighed.
I don’t think they should be doing it.
They’re so scared.
It’s not right.
I just think it’s cruel.
After the caskets were delivered, the mourners marched around the hospital grounds chanting: “We’re all together!” and “We love you!”
They held placards with messages like “Our grief is all that matters.”
One woman held up a sign reading: “I don’t want any more dead babies.
I want all of them dead.”
In a few minutes, about 1,500 people were on the cenotaph, which had been packed with mourners.
For some, the sight of so many people together was comforting.
But others said the cesium on the ground was so hot, it was a real threat to their health.
That is why we are here, one woman said.
I hope this is all right, she implored.
On Sunday, the funeral for a man named Ian, who died last week at St Johns Hospital, will take place in a nearby park.
The cause of death is not yet known.