Northern Ireland

Royal Victoria Hospital: New £150m emergency department ready to open

The entrance to the Royal Victoria Hospital's new emergency department
Image caption The Royal Victoria Hospital's new emergency department is due to open to the public on Wednesday

A new state-of-the-art emergency department is ready to open at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

It forms part of a new regional 12-storey critical care building that has cost more than £150m to build.

It is bigger, brighter and eventually will boast having additional staff members on the emergency care team.

The doors of the new unit will open to the public on Wednesday, almost three years behind schedule.

Image caption The new emergency department is located inside a 12-storey critical care building at the RVH site

In March, the BBC reported that another deadline had been missed due to ongoing construction problems.

But the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust's medical director said the trust is confident the building is safe and fit for purpose.

Boasts

Dr Cathy Jack said they would not be opening the building to patients otherwise.

"It has been delayed for over two-and-a-half years, we did have an issue that's been rectified and we are really looking forward to the opening," she said.

Image caption The new unit has a larger seated reception area with round the clock security

"We would not be opening unless we were confident that it was safe and fit for purpose. "

As Northern Ireland's newest and largest emergency department, the glass-fronted building sits between the children's unit and the main hospital building in the grounds of the Royal Victoria.

It boasts a much bigger seated reception area where CCTV cameras and officers will provide round the clock security.

It does look impressive.

Unpredictable

It is bigger than the previous department and has additional staff.

Eventually there will be 26 new nurses and five middle grade doctors including consultants.

Ambulances will access the department from the Falls Road through a dedicated blue light route.

Media captionDr Cathy Jack said she could not guarantee a patient would wait longer than they need to

The new entrance and waiting area replaces the dull and cramped waiting room that a member of staff likened to the waiting area in a taxi depot.

Dr Jack said the building would provide the benchmark for a new way of working across Northern Ireland.


Analysis: Does new emergency department cure health service ills?

There is tremendous expectation around the Royal Victoria Hospital's new emergency department.

But is it the the cure the local health and social care system requires? Read more.


But she admitted that 12-hour waits could not be ruled out.

"I know many of our patients wait too long and I am deeply sorry for that.

"But health care is unpredictable. We are doing all we can to minimise the risk.

Waits

"I can't guarantee that no patient will have to wait, but I am confident what we are doing will reduce the likelihood of that happening," she added.

While the department is bigger - 968 sq m bigger - there are no extra cubicles for patients.

There is also no additional space for patients who will more than likely have to wait on trolleys.

Trolley waits have been a significant problem for the Belfast Health Trust.

Image caption The new emergency department is bigger, but there are no extra cubicles for patients

During a tour of the building there was no mention of an area designed for such a purpose.

When asked by the BBC why the new build had not catered specifically for trolley waits, a spokesperson for the trust said those patients will be transferred to the clinical assessment unit.

Suitable

The BBC understands that parts of the building remains incomplete.

When the Department of Health was asked if the building had passed inspections, a spokesperson confirmed the building is ready to open.

Image caption The new emergency department will open at 08:00 BST on Wednesday

"The trust intends to carry out some additional works to address changes in standards and guidance since the contract was let in 2008," the spokesperson said.

"None of these changes impact on the emergency department and therefore it is suitable for opening."

The public are advised to use the existing emergency department until 08:00 BST on Wednesday when the new building will open to patients.

The new department stands out as a beacon for 21st century health care.

More on this story