Northern Ireland

Altnagelvin Hospital: RCN say staff concerned over tower block safety

Scene at Altnagelvin
Image caption The fire broke out at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry on Friday night

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said some staff at Altnagelvin hospital are concerned about the safety of the tower block where a fire broke out on Friday night.

Three wards on the top floors of the unit are to be closed following the fire.

The Western Health Trust said it was difficult to move patients from these levels after the fire.

Its chief executive, Elaine Way, has insisted the hospital is safe.

"I can assure the community that uses the hospital regularly that the trust board and the senior managers within the Western Trust are paying attention regularly to all of the safety issues associated with the hospital," she said.

"I think it would be important to await the report from the fire service that will actually establish the cause of the fire.

"When you have a ten-storey high tower block it would be acknowledged to have fire safety challenges and over the past three years alone we have spent over £5m improving safety within the hospital including recently spending £2m on a patient fire evacuation lift which was used on Friday night."

She said the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service trained regularly with its staff, and that no-one had been injured during the incident on Friday night.

"All of the patients that I have met who were transferred have commended all of the staff from the emergency services for the calm way the evacuation was executed and that's what our planning is about," she added.

Ms Way said in two-and-a-half years' time, there would be no inpatients within the tower block as a new wing was being built at the hospital.

"We have already opened a new south wing and we will open a north wing, once all patients are moved that mitigates that risk," she said.

Earlier, RCN officer Dessie Lowry had said an "extensive report" was needed into the fire.

"A number of staff are reflecting concerns portrayed by local politicians," he said.

"We, as an organisation are working with trust management to try and ensure recovery plans that are put in place are fit for purpose.

"The report into this fire needs time and space to get it right.

"We don't want to see a rushed report.

"We want to see a report that is extensive in its nature and bring forward recommendations which can be put in place.

"The trust have acted swiftly in permanently closing the top three wards."

The trauma, orthopaedic and general medical wards are to be relocated.

Patients from those wards are being cared for in other parts of the hospital.

Eighteen procedures scheduled for Tuesday were postponed.

Inspection

Seven wards at the hospital were evacuated on Friday night after a fire started on the roof.

The cause is still under investigation, but the Fire and Rescue Service said it appears it was accidental.

It was the second fire at the premises in just over a fortnight.

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