Derry hospital fire wards to close

Published Monday, 26 November 2012
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Three wards on the highest floors of Altnagelvin Hospital's tower block will no longer be used to house patients, the hospital has told UTV Live.

Derry hospital fire wards to close
Firefighters at the scene of the hospital blaze. (© UTV)

The revelation comes after the second fire in a month broke out at the hospital on Friday night during which 120 patients were rushed to safety.

At this stage, the Fire Service believe the blaze began accidentally.

The Health Minister Edwin Poots says that he does not believe the fire was caused by anything in the fabric of the building.

At around 6.45pm, the blaze began in the plant room. A pipe then burst on the roof, causing tanks to leak water, which cascaded onto the floors below.

Fifty firefighters using 11 fire engines joined ambulance crews, hospital staff and Translink drivers in the evacuation.

Geraldine Hillick, of the Altnagelvin Hospital, told UTV: "We have made a decision within the trust that we will not care for in patients within wards 8, 9 or 10 ever again.

"That's because we believe the wards are at a high level of the tower block and for evacuation purposes it will be safer to care for the patients on lower floors."

Patients from these wards will continue to be cared for in other appropriate areas of the hospital.

Recalling Friday night, Ms Hillick said: "It was frightening for the patients and talking to them even today they still express the feeling of panic.

"However, every one of them has told us that the confidence and the calmness of the nursing staff and the Fire Service and Ambulance Service really helped them to keep calm themselves."

The hospital has confirmed that no patient's condition has deteriorated as a result of what happened on Friday.

Kevin Campbell, Mayor of Derry, praised the emergency services.

"Everyone weighed in, put their shoulder to the wheel and everything. I have to take my hat off to the emergency services for the way they handled it. It was perfect."

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said that it was "humbling" to watch the actions of the emergency services on Friday night.

He continued: "Given that the need for a new building to replace the tower block had already been identified and accepted, two fires in the past three weeks have highlighted the need to expedite this project.

"I called three weeks ago for a full and thorough inspection of the hospital estate to ensure that risk of a second fire was eradicated."

Mr Durkan was at the scene of the blaze on Friday night with fellow SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey.

"Public confidence in the safety of Altnagelvin is low and will only be fully restored when the new hospital is built."

He concluded: "I will continue to push the minister to ensure its completion ahead of schedule, by 2016.''

Five of the wards affected have reopened, while two remained closed on Monday evening.

The Western Trust confirmed that some planned surgery went ahead on Monday, but 33 procedures had to be cancelled.

Some procedures scheduled for Tuesday have also been cancelled.

Patients affected by the cancellations will be contacted directly by hospital staff.

Emergency services are continuing to operate and normal visiting arrangements apply.

© UTV News
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2 Comments
Survivor in NI wrote (664 days ago):
Astonishing statement from the hospital considering Edwin Poots said only yesterday the building is fit for purpose. How many hospital beds have now been taken out of the area because of this or will they be moved to another part of the hospital ensuring a full complement of bed space??
William in Dungannon wrote (665 days ago):
A new build for altnagelvin? I have visited relatives at this hospital, and yes it may have been built some time ago but from what i saw it is a fine hospital building that is a lot more fit for purpose than hospitals in the southern health trust! Anyone not need to go too far around craigavon area hospital to see how badly in need parts of the hospital are in. I was an outpatient at south tyrone hospital dungannon and i have to say the state of the hospital is an absolute disgrace! Neither fit for staff patients or members of the public. There seems to be so many inequalities, the western trust is getting all these new builds but the southern trust has buildings in much more need of replacement! I would encourage minister poots to inspect my local hospital in dungannon! Staff do a wonderful job in a building long past its usable life!
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