By Bill Heaney
The SNP government is having to pay part of the £33 million costs to remove and replace wall panels from the open-roofed main entrance area to reduce fire risks at the £1 billion Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which is currently the subject of a public inquiry over a contaminated water supply and what caused patient deaths there.
The Health Secretaries during the building of this hospital were Nicola Sturgeon, now First Minister, and Jeanne Freeman, who is now retired from parliament and working in a Scottish university.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former Health Minister Jeanne Freeman.
Further to previous statements made by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on work to assess the fire risk attached to materials used for wall panels in the the hospital entrance, the Board today confirmed that a project of removal and replacement of some wall panels is about to begin.
The statement reads: “Work within the atrium [open roofed entrance] will start from Monday 28th November, and the project will cost a total of £33 million. It is anticipated that the project will be completed in 2027.
“The cost of the work is being supported by the Scottish Government, and it makes up part of the legal claim which is currently being pursued by NHSGGC.
“During that time, patients, visitors and staff may experience limited disruption to their usual routes through the hospital, seating and waiting areas, and catering facilities.
“We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause, however, every effort is being made to minimise disruption, ensure that reasonable access to facilities throughout the atrium area is maintained, and to ensure alternative routes to clinics and wards are clearly marked.
In consultation with our contractor, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Government, NHS Assure and Building Standards, the project has undergone an extensive and robust process of planning, in which we have sought to strike a balance between expediting removal and replacement and minimising disruption within the atrium.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and NHS Assure National Fire Advisors are satisfied that the building is safe and will remain so throughout the work, and all bodies are content with the plans we have put in place.
Professor Tom Steele, Director of Estates and Facilities at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to patients, visitors and staff.
“As the atrium is the central access point for the hospital, there will inevitably be some disruption.
“However, we would like to reassure everybody who uses the QEUH that throughout the period of work we will continue to provide high-quality patient-centred care to our patients.
“There may be some changes to waiting areas, but all clinics and wards will remain open.
“We would like to thank patients, visitors and staff for their patience and understanding while this essential work is carried out.”
Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Alasdair Perry, Head of Prevention and Protection for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We regularly work with partners, including NHSGGC, to advise on fire safety matters and were sighted early on the fire risk relating to the panels used as wall lining within the atrium of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.”
He added: “Our advice was to remove this material as soon as reasonably practicable and replace with wall lining materials that reduce the fire risk.
“We welcome the steps taken to achieve that, and the actions taken demonstrate that NHSGGC has implemented the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk until the removal work can be completed.
“Ultimately we are satisfied that the hospital can still safely operate and any risk to patients and the local community is low.”