Gibraltar has always been a controversial part of Europe. The building of new hospital however has been seen as an important project on the island.
When General Sir George Don arrived in Gibraltar to take up his role as Governor in 1814 he found a population of some 10,000 souls living in appalling conditions with the Fever rampant through the colony. Following a wide-ranging enquiry in 1815 he set about major improvements in sanitation, drainage, water supply and the installation of general civic pride among the inhabitants of the day.
Don’s work of reconstruction was exemplified by the conversion of the Blue Barracks site above the City into a hospital, that was later called the Colonial Hospital until it was renamed St. Bernard’s in the late 19th century.
In August 1999, 180 or so years later, the then Minister of Health, The Hon. Keith Azopardi, instigated an initial appraisal of Blocks 1-4 at Europort with a view to converting them into a modern day general hospital.
Work on the project commenced on 8 July 2002 in radically altering the inner areas of the existing Europort Buildings 1-4 to adapt them to the needs of a Hospital for the 21st century.
For example, the existing buildings have seven passenger lifts, which will remain, but three new bed-lift size lifts are being introduced to ensure ease of mobility of patients between floors and from operating theatres to wards.
New equipment in radiology, sterilisation and pathology and in the new operating theatres will enhance and provide the basis of excellence that the new facility will bring to the Gibraltar community. Provision of one, two and four-bed ward units with en-suite facilities combined with the best of medical services will highlight patient care is seen as the top priority.
Other areas of physical change will be the new vehicle ramp at the front of the hospital to provide ‘drop-off’ facilities for out patients and ease of access for the disabled. A separate accident and emergency entrance, for ambulances only, will be provided to the rear of the hospital with the department’s increased medical facilities immediately to hand.
CCTV AND COMMUNICATIONS
General safety and security has been a consideration with CCTV installed at strategic locations, such as the main reception area and paediatric unit, for monitoring at a central console 24 hours a day.
Information, communication and technology has been catered for with the hospital fully wired to the highest specification to accept, for example, video conferencing and high-speed communication with sister hospitals in the UK if required.
When the contractor started in 2002 it was anticipated that construction completion would be November 2003. However, as with any major project and particularly the reconfiguration of four buildings into one integrated unit, delays have occurred. These were unforeseen in the main with all of them now resolved. The consequence of these difficulties has been that completion, as anticipated by the contractor, will be February 2004.
That will be followed by a period of training and familiarisation by staff as they settle into the new hospital and become familiar with department locations and new equipment.
Patient safety will be the primary concern at all times and the GHA will be co-operating with other government departments, the police and emergency services to ensure the move is completed speedily and with the minimum inconvenience to all parties concerned.
FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT
When finally completed, the hospital will have some 210 beds covering ortho trauma, maternity, surgical, medical and paediatric wards, two main operating theatres and an emergency back up theatre, a hydrotherapy pool with a full rehabilitation clinic, day surgery unit and cardiac rehabilitation, accident and emergency department with provision for major and minor incidents and ophthalmic clinics. There will be a modern mortuary with much-improved waiting and viewing facilities adjacent to a new chapel. The present School of Health Studies will relocate from Bleak House to a dedicated area in Block 3 and the office of the Chief Executive and the administrative staff will move from Johnstone’s Passage to Block1.
The purchase, construction and equipment costs of the new hospital were financed by a £38.5 million and leaseback facility through the Royal Bank of Scotland (International).