POLITICIANS regularly have to register interests in everything from chairmanships to shareholdings.
But First Minister Alex Salmond declared an interest of a different kind when delays to the new Sick Kids Hospital were debated at the Scottish Parliament.
Referring to himself as “an ex-patient of the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh”, Mr Salmond insisted yesterday that the new £250 million facility at Little France “would be built”.
However, that claim came under fire from Labour, who said “more than words” were needed.
The First Minister is understood to have been a regular outpatient at the hospital for a decade during his childhood as he received treatment for asthma.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson tackled him on the future of the Sick Kids after the Evening News revealed yesterday that NHS Lothian was to consider the possibility of retaining the hospital on its current site rather than moving to Little France.
Ms Davidson, who said she was also a patient at the hospital as a child, urged Mr Salmond during First Minister’s Questions to commit to an opening date for the new building.
The project has been held up by a stalemate in crucial land-swap negotiations with Consort, the private firm which owns the land.
After yesterday’s news that the earliest opening date for the new Sick Kids had slipped back to 2017, Ms Davidson asked: “Will the First Minister tell us when the doors will actually open at a new children’s hospital facility in Edinburgh?”
Mr Salmond said the method being used to attract a private funder had slowed the process down. “We’re looking at the non-profit distribution model to build the Sick Kids Hospital,” he said.
“That hospital will be built. But NPD programmes, inevitably because of their nature take time.”
In the wake of this week’s NHS Lothian board meeting, Ms Davidson said: “The sad truth is that the chair of NHS Lothian reported that they’re now being forced to prepare a Plan B to keep the hospital at the old site.
“I know how beloved the old Sciennes building is. However, the limitations of the site, the age of the building and its distance from an acute emergency hospital means that this facility is no longer suitable.
“This government cannot sit on its hands and let this project fall apart.”
Mr Salmond said the problem had been caused by the withdrawal of funding by the Westminster government.
Mr Salmond’s pledge that the new hospital would be built was welcomed by Tom Waterson, Lothian branch chairman for Unison.
“Alex Salmond has a lot to do with whether this goes ahead,” he said. “I welcome him saying that the Sick Kids is going to be built and would urge him to now release the capital funding.”
However, Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “It is completely unsubstantiated by dates or any convincing plan to show how the hospital will be built.
“We need more than words on this. We need definitive dates for the project.”
Susan Goldsmith, finance director at NHS Lothian, said she welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to the plans.
RUTH Davidson was knocked down by a truck outside her home in Fife in 1984, when she was five years old.
The near-fatal accident left her with breaks to her right leg, fractures to her pelvis and a crushing of the main artery in her leg, which required extensive reconstructive surgery. Her parents were told she had a 50-50 chance of survival.
She was cared for in three hospitals, including the Sick Kids, and had to relearn how to walk using a Zimmer frame.
She later recalled: “I was in a body cast when I was released from hospital and I was plastered from my armpit to my foot on one side and to my knee on the other because I had also fractured my pelvis as well as broken my legs.
“As one of thousands whose life has been saved at the Sick Kids, I know only too well how dearly loved a building it is.”