Plumbing problems hit births at Edinburgh hospital

The hospital just opened a new birthing suite with pools in 2011, but the plumbing has now failed. Picture: Esme Allen

The hospital just opened a new birthing suite with pools in 2011, but the plumbing has now failed. Picture: Esme Allen

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PLUMBING problems at a flagship Edinburgh hospital have plunged water births into chaos.

The plug was pulled on the popular baby delivery method – after “gunk” was found in the water supply.

Health chiefs have been forced to apologise to distraught new mums – who were also hit with a four-hour water shortage on Thursday – as engineers battled to rectify the problem.

One mum told us: “I had my heart set on a water birth, it’s meant to be a brilliant way of controlling pain, so was devastated when I was told a gunk problem meant I couldn’t have one.”

Hospital chiefs decided to suspend the use of the facilities at the Royal Infirmary after the unsightly residue was found by staff in water being pumped into the baths.

Although it was quickly tested and found to be harmless, it was decided that mothers would be denied use of the popular pools as a precaution to prevent ­newborns coming into contact with the substance.

The maternity unit at the hospital, where more than 7000 babies are born each year, was then left without warm running water for around four hours on Thursday night, ­forcing staff to make ­alternative arrangements, while the contractors worked to fix the problem.

It is believed that the non-toxic substance, which has put the pools out of action for around three weeks, was caused by a reaction between chloramines in water and valves in the ten-year-old hospital’s huge plumbing network.

One 28-year-old mum who had a baby on Thursday claims she was not allowed to have a bath at the unit.

She said: “The place is absolutely bogging. This is my third kid and I’ve always been offered a bath afterwards. It’s a necessity more than a luxury. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I was told the water was off on Thursday evening. Maternity wards are supposed to be hygienic but not having any running water is far from that. The place is an absolute joke.”

It is believed that hospital bosses believe the issue has now been fixed, although use of the pools could still be denied in the days to come.

The hospital, which was built and is run by a private firm under a controversial private finance initiative (PFI) deal, has previously experienced maintenance difficulties with roofs, which have been accessed by feral pigeons after holes opened up in guttering.

George Curley, NHS Lothian’s director of operations in facilities, issued an apology to mothers left disappointed.

He said: “There were no safety risks to patients or staff. We instructed our PFI partners Consort to replace the valves where the seals had broken down and this work has now been completed.