Editorial - Don’t let it happen again

The fire at Altnagelvin hospital raises a number of serious questions which need immediate answers to ensure public confidence.

There is no doubt that the dedication and professionalism of staff at the hospital ensured that the situation on Friday night was handled in the best way possible with the focus on the needs of patients and their families.

The immediate response from the Trust, the emergency services and transport agencies is certainly to be praised and illustrated the effectiveness of contingency plans which are in place for major incidents.

There remains, however, questions as to how this situation arose in the first place. These questions need to be addressed and answered publicly.

Successive reports going back more than a decade have flagged up safety concerns about the tower block at the hospital.

Until the investigation into Friday night’s fire is completed, we do not know if the concerns raised in the reports had any bearing on what happened. But regardless of the outcome, those concerns still need to be addressed.

Fortunately no one was injured in this incident but there is now an onus on the everyone involved in ensure that there it is never repeated.

The Health Minister needs to make the necessary funds available to the Western Trust to address the damning safety concerns raised in numerous reports.

This has to happen primarily to ensure the safety of patients and staff at Altnagelvin but also to restore public confidence in the hospital.