Poots challenged on Tower safety

SDLP's Pat Ramsey.  (1005JB04)

SDLP's Pat Ramsey. (1005JB04)

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The north’s health minister has been challenged to dispel safety fears surrounding Altnagelvin’s Tower Building.

Yesterday Stormont’s Health Minster Edwin Poots said the hospital’s Tower - the scene of Friday night’s blaze and also the scene of a fire three weeks ago - was safe.

Minister for Health, Edwin Poots, MLA, talks to Mary Simms, who was one of the 120 patients who were evacuated from Altnagelivn Hospital after a fire broke out on the roof of the building on Friday night. Included is Geraldine Hillick (Director for Acute Hospitals in the Western Trust).

Minister for Health, Edwin Poots, MLA, talks to Mary Simms, who was one of the 120 patients who were evacuated from Altnagelivn Hospital after a fire broke out on the roof of the building on Friday night. Included is Geraldine Hillick (Director for Acute Hospitals in the Western Trust).

“An investigation is being carried out, and I wouldn’t want to prejudge it, but the Fire Service are following a particular lead and I would be fairly confident that it will be proved that it was not the fabric of the building that was the problem,” Mr Poots said.

But Derry SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey says the Tower block, built in the 1950s, must be modernised amid concerns that it is not safe.

And he called on Mr Poots to explain how he has determined there are no safety concerns surrounding the 50 plus years-old structure.

“I want to again call for the immediate commencement of a modernisation programme for the Tower Building at Altnagelvin as a matter of urgency.

“There is clear evidence that it is needed, and if the Minister is confident the building is of a competent standard, let him release the documents he has, especially the Northern Ireland Fire Service report into the recent incident.”

Concerns over the safety of the Tower have been raised in a number of reports going back to 2001. Mr Ramsey says he is also aware health trust officials have been worried about the safety of the Tower for some time.

He says it is vital the north west public are assured that the hospital is safe.

“We cannot play fast and loose with the lives of people already suffering illness or injury,” he says.