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News - September 2019

Shock as Edinburgh hospital opening is halted

Shock as Edinburgh hospital opening is halted

The long-awaited opening of the new £150m children’s hospital in Edinburgh has been put on hold, with fears parts of the building may have to be ripped down amid concerns over ventilation and drainage problems.

Tom Waterson, chairman of Unison Scotland’s health committee, said drainage at the HLM Architects-designed building was the most-pressing matter facing the troubled project.

This follows the earlier decision, by Health Minister, Jeane Freeman, to postpone the official opening due to ventilation problems.

NHS Lothian had paid millions of pounds in a settlement to help resolve some of the problems and said a review into the delay is now underway.

A statement from the health board adds: “The decision to halt the scheduled move of all patients, staff and services was taken after final safety checks of the building showed that the ventilation system within the critical care department needs further work to bring it into line with national standards.

“The air environment is extremely important and can help prevent the occurrence and spread of infection in patients who are already vulnerable.

“Urgent work is now underway to draw up a safe and detailed migration plan in conjunction with Health Facilities Scotland, which will be overseen by Scottish Government.”

Fit for purpose?

The news comes after BBC Scotland revealed the health board is paying millions of pounds to a private consortium for a hospital it cannot yet use.

Waterson said: “I’ve been speaking to senior staff within NHS Lothian and they are telling us that they have concerns primarily over drainage at the site.

“People are unable to confirm whether the drainage that has been put in is, in fact, fit for purpose.

“We need to find out what’s happening before everyone moves in.

“We can’t wait to find out later on and just keep our fingers crossed.”

He added that the problems date back as far as three years when senior staff were ‘alerted to shortcomings in the drainage’.

But, despite that the contractors continued to press ahead with construction.

Waterson said: “There is a school of thought that they might have to rip it down.

“How do you fix drainage in a building when it’s ‘x’ number of feet beneath the building? I’m not an engineer, but it’s not going to be easy.”

The new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, which will have over 200 beds, was supposed to open in July.

But Freeman, overruled NHS Lothian after last-minute inspections found safety concerns over the ventilation system.

No end in sight

The project has also been marred by disputes between the NHS board and Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL), the consortium responsible for constructing the building. It is made up of Brookfield Multiplex as the main contractor, Bouygues as facilities management provider, and HLMAD as architects, with financial partner, Macquarie Capital Group.

Asked recently to speculate on the rescheduled opening date, Freeman could not give a guarantee that it would happen this year or next.

She said: “It wouldn’t be fair to the staff or patients affected by this delay for me, or anyone else, to give guarantees before we have the facts from the reviews I ordered in July. Anything at this stage is purely speculation.

“That timetable of work I set out last month, when issues with the ventilation in critical care came to light, is on track.

“Work by Health Protection Scotland and Health Facilities Scotland is well underway and will give me the information I need to base any future decision about a timetable for the move to the new site.”

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