Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: former director says current building 'clapped out' and must be replaced

The former director of Edinburgh's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion has dismissed Health Secretary Jeane Freeman's suggestion that the current building – declared unfit for purpose in 2014 – should be retained rather than replaced.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 7:50 am
The Eye Pavilion was declared unfit for purpose in 2014 Pic: Greg Macvean

Celebrated eye surgeon Dr Hector Chawla, who saved the sight of ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, said even refurbishing the premises in Chalmers Street would be a waste of money.

"I think the building is just clapped out," he said

"The roof is leaking, the theatre roofs are leaking, the walls are cracked, the lifts don't work. It would be pointless spending any money on it."

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Dr Hector Chawla, former director of the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

He said the building, opened in 1969, had been designed to last 30 years and it was now into its sixth decade.

"The lifts are continually breaking down and the theatres are on the top floor so if the lifts break down everything comes to a halt.

"I don't think they can go on that much longer – they have to have a new building and it has to be done pretty sharp."

Ms Freeman told NHS Lothian in December the government would no longer fund a new eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France despite signing up to the project in 2018 and allowing £1 million to be spent on preparation work.

Instead she talked about dispersing eyecare across the region and using a new elective care centre at Livingston for operations.

But in a letter to Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray she said she had asked NHS Lothian to plan on retaining the current building – despite it being deemed not fit for purpose seven years ago.

Dr Chawla said: "They are firing things off without thinking. It is clear there is no plan.

"Is she going to cover the cost of refurbishment or, if that is shown to be not cost effective, will she then provide the money for a new hospital?

"She is trying to put it back onto NHS Lothian, but what can they do?"

There is cross-party support for calls on the government to proceed with a new hospital and Lothian Tory MSP has started a petition on the issue.

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