Gavin Hastings launches hospital open day before big move

RUGBY legend Gavin Hastings is to kick off an open day at the Royal Victoria Hospital tomorrow, which is being held to give members of the public a last chance to bid goodbye to the hospital before it closes.

The hospital, which mostly treats older patients, is to be moved to the new Royal Victoria building at the Western General in June, after 118 years of serving patients at its current site in Craigleith Road.

The open day will include a display of memorabilia and photographs, and there will also be attractions for children including a magician, bouncy castle, tombola and falconry display.

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There will also be a display from construction company Laing O’Rourke about the new site, which will be the first in Scotland to have all patient accommodation in single, en-suite rooms.

Mr Hastings, left, said: “The Royal Victoria Hospital has held a special place in the hearts of the local community for a long time. Being part of this community myself, it is a great opportunity for me to get involved and I would encourage everyone to come and celebrate the history of this landmark hospital.”

Site manager Pat Wynne said the display would include old photographs and medical devices found on site during the clear-up prior to moving.

He said: “We’ve got X-ray boxes, different kinds of stethoscopes, some amazing books right back to the beginning of the last century – there’s a lot of things in relation to how they treated TB. It’s amazing what you find when you’re closing a place down.”

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With more than 300 staff due to relocate to the new site, he said the next few weeks would be sad ones for them.

He said: “I started my nursing career here back in 1986 and it is an emotional time, there’s no doubt about it. A lot of staff have been here 20, 30 years.

“This hospital has been a key part of the community round here for such a long time and the thought of moving into the big Western General site is different, and it’s a challenge for everybody, but it is positive. The working conditions and patient conditions there are just second to none.”

The Royal Victoria was established as a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1894 by Sir Robert William Philip. He was a pioneer in the treatment of the disease and converted the Georgian mansion into the first Scottish TB sanatorium, providing fresh air and food for sufferers.

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He initially rented Craigleith House and later added a farm to provide fresh food for patients. He bought the house and its 60-acre grounds in 1889 and gradually increased the facilities at the hospital, which achieved royal status in 1911.

The site will be put on the market this summer once the move to the Western is completed.

The open day runs from 10am until 4pm, with the official opening by Mr Hastings at noon.

A second open day is planned for May 26 at the new Royal Victoria to allow visitors to look at the facilities before it opens.