PATIENTS at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s emergency department are to be treated in a portable ward for up to two years.
The pre-fabricated surgical observation unit – which one critic has dubbed a “caravan for healthcare” – is being brought in to help the hospital maintain its services during large-scale building work.
Construction of the new Sick Kids Hospital on the Little France site will see key areas of the existing emergency department left out of action, with a link between the ERI and the new £140 million hospital to be constructed.
Resuscitation rooms will be taken out of use, with the work shifted into an area used as a surgical observation unit where hundreds of emergency patients are sent every year.
As health bosses are unable to lose capacity at the under-pressure hospital, they have drafted in a mobile hospital ward – set to arrive on a huge lorry once planning permission is granted by the council –to take its place.
NHS Lothian said that the six-bed ward, which will be used as a key area of A&E, will offer a “high-quality clinical environment” and would allow building work to be carried out with a minimum of disruption.
But senior MSP John Lamont, chief whip for the Scottish Conservatives, raised questions over the cost of the cabin, in light of the controversial arrangement between the health board and its PFI partner and hospital owner Consort.
The Evening News revealed yesterday that the latest wrangle between the bodies had led to the building of two new hospital wards being delayed amid accusations that Consort was holding NHS Lothian “to ransom”.
Mr Lamont said: “Perhaps NHS Lothian should count itself lucky that Consort has been generous enough to allow these cabins on site.
“These facilities in themselves may be up-to-date, but we have to ask why what is supposed to be a flagship hospital is resorting to using caravans for healthcare, even if just temporarily.
“Patients expect better, regardless of what building work may be going on at the hospital.”
NHS Lothian said the temporary building would stay on-site for a year, although planning permission has been sought for two years as a contingency measure. Health board sources said that more temporary units could become a more common feature at the ERI in the future.
Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “The installation of this temporary unit provides a high quality clinical environment and gives us the space and flexibility to carry out this work with minimal disruption.Ensuring a safe environment for our patients, visitors and staff is our priority throughout this work and we are doing all we can to minimise disruption.”