South Tyrone building poses a danger to life
SOUTH Tyrone Hospital’s tower block building has been branded a danger to the lives of patients, staff and the public by a damning internal Department of Health report.
The red-brick building, which was built in the 1960s and is one of the oldest hospital buildings in Northern Ireland, presents a ‘particularly high risk’ with major structural repairs described as ‘necessary and urgent’.
The landmark building also poses increased fire risks, while inadequate sanitary facilities have increased the risk of infection according to the department’s latest Maintaining Existing Services survey.
South Tyrone Hospital is one of fifteen hospital buildings in Northern Ireland which pose serious risks including fire safety hazards, out-dated electrical systems, masonry falling from buildings, poor sanitary facilities and lifts at risk of failure.
Dangers at Craigavon Area Hospital have also been flagged including increased fire risks, inadequate sanitary facilities which increase the risk of infection, main theatres sharing ventilation equipment leading to infection control risk, as well as a number of failed microbiological tests.
Health Minister Edwin Poots insisted that the risks identified in South Tyrone Hospital “are being prioritised and addressed diligently”.
He added: “I have received assurance that each health and social care trust chief executive has a system in place to ensure that estate-related risks are identified and appropriately managed.”
The Minister said that within the current budget period the department is investing around £950m in the major replacement of many of the facilities which are the source of the risks identified in the report.
The information was unearthed by the Detail, an online news website. Other hospitals named in the report include the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, the Royal Maternity Hospital, Belfast City Hospital’s Windsor House, and the Ulster Hospital’s main ward block and paediatric block.
Chief Estates Officer John Cole said: “One of the things that it is absolutely essential is to maintain public confidence in the ability of the health service to provide safe and efficient health services.
“As part of our processes, we obviously have to assess risk at different times to make sure that risk is being appropriately managed. One of the mechanisms we use to do that is through preparing this Maintaining Existing Services report.
“No building is risk free and as buildings get older the risks in them tend to grow.”
Mr Cole said that health buildings here were under-funded for decades but that the department’s capital budget had risen from around £63m in 2000 to around £200m a year in the current budget period. This includes additional money from the Department of Finance and Personnel after the budget settlement.
He confirmed that around 35% of buildings in the health estate are over 50 years old, 67% are over 30 years old and some buildings are as old as 150 years.
The Deputy Secretary continued: “Since we got the injection in capital we have been spending more money on the estate and trying to catch up with the backlog and that has allowed us to make inroads.
“However, we are trying to address a major deficit over many decades and as a result there are buildings which just by their age are no longer really fit for purpose.
“We haven’t got enough money. The approximate assessment of how much it would cost to bring all the buildings up to a modern standard would be £5.5 billion.
“If we spend all our money on replacing facilities within the existing buildings, we will never get to the point where we actually meet the current day standards.”
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Weather for Dungannon
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 9 C
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Wind direction: North