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The Scottish Government has promised a replacement for the current Eye Pavilion as part of a major investment in NHS infrastructure over the next decade, but campaigners have warned it cannot wait ten years.
The existing building on Chalmers Street, opened in 1969, was declared not fit for purpose in 2014 and is plagued by problems including a leaking roof and broken-down lifts.
Lothian Tory MSP MIles Briggs said he had written to Mr Yousaf, who was appointed as Health Secretary following the SNP’s re-election last month, proposing that he make a point of touring the current building and meeting campaigners.
“I think he should come and visit the current site to really see the need for the Eye Pavilion to be replaced as soon as possible.”
Plans for a replacement eye hospital next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France were agreed in principle in 2018, but the government told NHS Lothian in December 2020 it would not fund the project, prompting a public outcry and cross-party calls for a rethink.
During the election campaign, Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would after all fund a replacement – and she repeated the pledge when she set out the government’s priorities in the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Briggs said Mr Yousaf had indicated he was willing to meet Lothian MSPs to discuss the project.
“I am pleased the new Health Secretary realises the importance of a new Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion and is engaging cross-party on the issue.
"If we are now getting to a point where I hope we will see the government outline how a replacement will be funded and the timescale on when that will happen, I think it's really pressing that Humza Yousaf comes and sees for himself the dire state which the old Eye Pavilion is in. Despite the health board and NHS professionals doing their best, we know that facility is beyond its life expectancy as a building and we need to see urgent steps now for the project for its replacement to be brought forward.
"Hopefully Humza Yousaf will also have a chance to meet service users and campaigners to begin to get an idea of the services they want to see.”
Sylvia Paton, of patients’ campaign group Keep Edinburgh Eye Pavilion (KEEP), backed the call for Mr Yousaf to visit the Eye Pavilion.
"I think he needs to see the condition of the building and the cramped space there is. People have to wait in corridors, which was fine at the time it was designed, but in today’s society and particularly with Covid is no longer appropriate and doesn’t give the space you need. The theatres are on the top floor, directly below the roof and the roof often leaks, which means that theatre is out of commission and you end up with operations and procedures cancelled at short notice.”
And she said campaigners would also welcome a meeting with the Health Secretary. “Now we’ve got the commitment from them we need to get things moving.”