The HSE was accused this week of hypocrisy in planning to shut down St Brigid’s Ward in Waterford’s St Patrick’s Hospital “for safety reasons” while apparently ignoring a potentially dangerous situation in St Otteran’s Hospital nearby.
Staff at the latter building have voiced serious concern over the fact that a fire escape in one of its wards – St Monica’s – has been inaccessible to bed-ridden patients for all of ten months and nothing has so far been done about it.
“A fire officer reported the matter to management last July and we are still awaiting corrective action in the form of a ramp being put in place”, said a member of staff who did not wish to be named.
He said it was ironic that the HSE was purporting to be closing St Brigid’s on health and safety grounds while failing to address this fire safety hazard. “It only reinforces the conviction that the real reason for closing St Brigid’s is monetary”, he maintained.
He said also that the electrical system at St Otteran’s was operating without a trip-switch due to overloading since the amalgamation last week of the St Joseph’s and St Monica’s Wards. That’s a worry too for the staff who have been in touch with health and safety personnel.
Mr Sean Kelly of the Unite union, which represents household and catering staff at the hospital, accused the HSE of hypocrisy in allowing the fire exit problem to drag on for so long, while at the same time being apparently so concerned about health and safety in St Brigid’s that they were insisting on shutting it down.
Responding through Fiachra O Cealleachair of its Communications Department, HSE South said St Otteran’s Hospital management, in light of increased bed occupancy at St Monica’s and increased dependency levels among patients, requested the Executive’s Fire Safety Officer to review evacuation procedures.
Mr O Cealleachair added: “Whereas a ‘mattress evacuation’ procedure is an appropriate mechanism in many circumstances, the review has recommended, in the context of St Monica’s ground floor location, that a ‘bed evacuation’ procedure be deployed to enhance fire safety precautions at the ward. Works are currently under way to facilitate this process”.