A promised replacement for the ageing Falkirk Community Hospital came a step closer this week.
NHS Forth Valley Health Board agreed to work with Falkirk Council to make it happen.
However, the news came with a safety warning about the facility – parts of which are 95 years old.
Board members were warned that the current buildings are not fit for purpose and work is ongoing to keep them safe until a new facility is in place.
A report delivered by chief executive Cathie Cowan to the board made clear the risks of doing nothing.
It stated: “Four of the five inpatient units are in a block of accommodation that currently poses fire safety risks, although these are known and some remedial work is in the process of being reviewed for action.”
These four units mainly provide care for elderly and vulnerable patients.
The report also flagged up other risks, saying: “Support service accommodation for the ASDU (Aseptic Sterilisation Decontamination Unit) and Health Records pose risks for the NHS board, both financial and reputational.”
Mrs Cowan told board members that replacing the hospital was necessary but would be a complex project involving partnership working, mainly with Falkirk Council and Scottish Ambulance Services.
Plans to redevelop the site nearly ten years ago were put on hold because of the financial crash in late 2010 and only limited development has taken place since then.
This included demolishing the Windsor Unit and other parts of the building.
Plans for the new facility will involve Falkirk’s Integration Joint Board (IJB) which brings together the local NHS and Falkirk Council to join up the delivery of health and social care services.
Councillor Allyson Black told the board: “We need to get it done quickly, but it’s really important we get it right. Doing that will relieve the pressure on other parts of the system.”
Following the meeting, a spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley, reassured people that all of the risks mentioned were being managed.
She said: “We review fire safety at our hospitals on a regular basis as part of our ongoing estates and maintenance programme.
“Falkirk Community Hospital complies with L1 fire direction standards
and a range of preventative measures are in place to minimise the chance of fire occurring.
“Given the age of some of the hospital buildings, we have also been working with colleagues at Health Facilities Scotland to explore a range of additional measures to further enhance fire safety standards and funding has been set aside to complete this work before the end of the financial year.”
“The ASDU (Aseptic Sterilisation Decontamination Unit) at Falkirk Community Hospital meets all relevant quality standards and is audited by external inspectors on a regular basis.
“While it currently remains fit for purpose, the facility is housed in an older building which will require to be modernised or replaced in the longer term.
“Similarly, a number of health records on the site are housed in older premises and we are currently exploring a number of alternative storage and scanning options.
In May this year Mrs Cowan revealed her desire to replace Falkirk Community Hospital with a new facility, similar to the service offered in Stirling Health & Care Village.
At that time she said: “Capital is a scarce commodity in 2019 but I’m determined that it is not going to stop us.”