ERI patients left in unbearable heat for days

FRESH calls have been made for a probe into conditions at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after a mum-to-be claims she was left sweltering in intolerable heat for three days.

A mum-to-be said the heat in the ERI was intolerable. Picture: Tony Marsh
A mum-to-be said the heat in the ERI was intolerable. Picture: Tony Marsh

The first-time mother went for checks on her unborn child on Ward 119 in the hospital’s maternity unit last week where she said women were crying with the heat and staff were forced to borrow fans from other areas.

Jim Eadie MSP branded the news as “unacceptable” and renewed calls for an investigation into the private finance initiative behind the £184 million hospital, which was built by Consort in 2002.

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The 37-year-old mother, who did not want to be identified, said the conditions make her dread going back there to have her baby, which is due in four weeks’ time. She said: “The heat is shocking. I don’t know how the staff can work. They just looked done in.

“There were another two women in my ward who were crying with the heat and asking for the windows to be opened – but they can’t open the windows. There were no fans and no air-conditioning.

“I was just sitting on the bed getting monitored for my baby, but the sweat was running off my back.

“When I said about the heat, the midwife suggested going for a walk. They were borrowing fans from other areas, but the staff were saying ‘We can’t give you a fan because there are not enough’.”

Temperatures soared to 30C on the wards last summer, forcing Unison to send in a health and safety inspector following a string of complaints from staff.

Spokesman Tom Waterson said the matter was an “ongoing battle” due to the nature of the building, which has no air conditioning and windows cannot be opened more than four inches for safety reasons.

He added: “This problem has been raised with us 
constantly since the hospital first opened.”

The news is “the latest in a string of failures”, according to Edinburgh Southern MSP Jim Eadie, who has called for a parliamentary debate on the PFI contract.

He said: “I think it is unacceptable that staff and patients are having to work and be cared for in such an environment.

“In this day and age patients should not have to bring their own fans into a clinical unit because of the heat.”

Fiona Mitchell, general manager of Women’s and Children’s Services at NHS Lothian, said: “We try to ensure that patients are kept as comfortable as possible during their stay. When the outside temperature rises, we have a large supply of fans and portable air conditioning units available.

“By their very nature however, maternity units will always be warmer than others to ensure newborn babies are kept cosy.”

A spokesperson for Consort said: “The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is a naturally ventilated hospital, which is typical of most hospital designs in the UK and meets NHS guidance.”