Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Future of Altnagelvin Hospital's tower block wards hit by fire under review

The tower block at Altnagelvin Hospital
The tower block at Altnagelvin Hospital
The tower block at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry where a fire broke out on the roof on Friday night
Altnagelvin Hospital
Altnagelvin Hospital
Altnagelvin Hospital
Health Minister Edwin Poots visits the hospital on Saturday
The tower block at Altnagelvin Hospital where a fire broke out
Damage on the tenth floor after fire evacuated the ward

The future of three wards affected by a fire at the top of Altnagelvin Hospital’s tower block is under review, the Western Trust has announced.

And another 18 patients will miss out on procedures planned for today.

Yesterday 33 planned inpatient or day cases were cancelled, and 23 carried out.

A Trust spokesperson said: “There are 18 planned procedures postponed for today.

“All other procedures will continue as planned.”

Five out of the seven wards evacuated on Friday evening have now returned to normal.

But the Western Trust has taken the decision to review the future usage of wards 8, 9 and 10 at the top of the damaged block.

“Patients from wards 8, 9 and 10 will continue to be cared for in other appropriate areas of the hospital,” the spokesperson added.

The evacuation of patients was treated as a major incident by the hospital and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. Almost 50 firefighters in 11 appliances battled the blaze.

The latest incident followed an electrical fire on November 6 which led to 20 patients being moved to other areas of the hospital.

Meanwhile, the tower block where the two fires broke out this month is to be replaced, the health minister has confirmed.

Edwin Poots said money had already been secured for a new building — but he insisted there is no danger to patients and staff using the present building.

However, Pat Ramsey MLA said that only a full investigation involving electrical engineers would restore public confidence in the 50-year-old tower.

Mr Ramsey — who spent Friday night on the grounds of the Londonderry hospital witnessing at first hand the evacuation of 120 patients from seven wards — said: “First and foremost, I cannot commend highly enough not just the emergency services, but all the hospital staff, along with off-duty colleagues, who reacted swiftly and came to assist with the task of evacuating over 120 patients.

“However, it has come to my attention that concerns had been expressed for some time about the safety of the tower block. This is the second fire in the past three weeks.”

Mr Ramsey said it was imperative that the health minister, hospital senior management, the Trust and the Health and Safety Executive immediately launched an inspection of the building and drew up an action plan to assure the public that they will be safe in the hospital wards.

“We cannot play fast and loose with the lives of people already suffering illness or injury,” he added.

Mr Poots visited the hospital on Saturday and spoke to both staff and patients caught up in the extensive evacuation.

While the Fire Service has yet to complete its investigation into the cause of the fire which broke out at a plant room on the top of the hospital it is thought to have started accidentally.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Poots said: “I don't want people to become frightened or afraid of actually using the facility and I want to ensure that that isn't the case.

“I know the Fire Service are following a particular lead and I would be fairly confident that it will be proved that it was not the fabric of the building that was the problem,” he added.

“This building isn't fitted with faulty wiring that causes fires.”

Background

The Fire Service has yet to finish its investigation into the cause of the fire which broke out at a plant room at the top of Altnagelvin Hospital’s tower. However, it is thought to have started accidentally. On November 6 the alarm was also raised after a fire broke out on the seventh floor of the same building leading to the evacuation of 20 patients from ward 7.

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