Helen Martin: Signs all point to troubled at ERI

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has been dogged by controversy. Picture: Toby Williams
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has been dogged by controversy. Picture: Toby Williams
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THINK back to before Quartermile, when the Royal Infirmary was on Lauriston Place overlooking the Meadows.

Since before the horseless carriage became a common mode of transport, its dark Gothic presence in the centre of town was equally accessible to all and conveniently located for the university.

No-one drove there except to drop off a passenger, because clearly, there was nowhere to park.

Among those alarmed when it was announced that the tired old building had outlived its usefulness as a hospital and the new ERI would be built out in the wilds of Little France, were those in the north, west and east of the city, many of whom had never been further south than Newington or Cameron Toll.

Let’s face it, in case of an emergency, keeping an important out-patient appointment or juggling between work, visiting hours and dinner to visit a patient, crossing an entire city by public transport doesn’t make a lot of sense, although many have no option.

Another group less than happy with the location were the staff. Nurses, doctors, clerical and domestics, and the other employees suddenly faced a daily journey out to the fringes of Edinburgh “civilisation”, a move that would affect where they chose to live as well as how they travelled back and forth and how much it would cost.

The consolation was that the new ERI would be a clean-lined, cost-efficient, custom-built centre of medical excellence with all mod cons, plenty of bed space, a telly and phone by every bed, shops and a massive car park capable of catering for patients, visitors and staff. That, after all, was the whole point of siting it outside our congested wee city.

Looking back now the word “clean” is a bit of a joke following the multiple infection outbreaks it has seen. The medical excellence, or lack of it, has hit the headlines from time to time, particularly on matters involving care of the elderly. And the food is renowned for flying in the face of healthy eating messages being preached by other parts of the NHS.

Operations have had to be carried out by torchlight after repeated power failures and the cost of the PFI contract is crippling. Poor forward-planning has led to a shortage of beds especially at critical winter periods in the past, and as for the individual telephones and televisions for patients, as the saying goes “at least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask”. The charges were daylight robbery.

And now staff have effectively been told there isn’t enough car parking for them, let alone all patients and visitors.

It seems the ERI building isn’t cutting it on any level. And as an experiment, it also shows that no matter how prohibitive parking charges are, cars are still seen as essential for most shift-workers and hospital visitors.

In some ways we should be grateful there’s a recession on and people are desperate for jobs. If they could afford to be more choosy they probably wouldn’t want to work there at all.

Abattoir will give you nightmares

THE scenes in a North Yorkshire halal abattoir secretly filmed by Animal Aid are so horrifying I can’t describe them here. They are as bad, or worse, than some war atrocities except the victim isn’t an enemy but a defenceless lamb who is being tortured, mocked and physically battered just for the sheer hell of it.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain called for an urgent and robust national accreditation system and said the sadistic revelations would undermine Muslim consumer trust. And the Halal Food Authority said mandatory CCTV was needed in all abattoirs, halal or not. We’re all on the same side here.

High criminal penalties for wanton animal cruelty including lengthy prison terms wouldn’t go amiss either. And if your kids have access to the internet, make sure they don’t see the film. They’ll have nightmares.

Get out and live in the real world, Lesley

TRAMS and buses have quite possibly done for Councillor Lesley Hinds’ ambitions to become an MSP.

A senior Labour source even said the odds were stacked against her and no-one in North and Leith thought she was going to win the seat vacated by Malcolm Chisholm.

I’m not so sure, but we are all fed up with career politicians who start at secondary school, study politics at university, join the party, work as researchers and aides, stand for the council, move on to Holyrood and potentially Westminster, or come to it later in life taking one political job after another, living in their own ever-shrinking world, where they don’t relate to the public, and merely follow in the stale footsteps of their predecessors.

So don’t worry Lesley, take time out and have a break. Explore the real world. Get a proper job where you can’t pull strings, or even be jobless for a while. Realise that most people don’t admire councillors and politicians and only discuss them in scathing terms of troughs, noses and self-aggrandisement.

That’s the time to stand as an MSP or MP – when you despise the system and those in it and want to change things.

No place for a child

IT’S terrible that an innocent child suffered an unprovoked bottle attack on the way to Rangers v Celtic. ButI have to ask, who would take a ten-year-old to an Old Firm game?