Asbestos discovered in hospital cupboard despite recent all-clear

INSULATION boards containing asbestos were discovered in a service cupboard at the Gilbert Bain Hospital during recent refur­bishment work, it emerged this week.

The contractor who discovered the asbestos took immediate to seal off the affected areas and a sample was taken for analysis. It was confirmed to contain asbestos and the decision was taken to remove the boards.

This will be done in the next few weeks. Attempts are being made to minimise risk to patients and staff. A specialist company will be brought in to carry out the work, and during this time it is planned to use the newly refurbished ward on the top floor (Ward 2) to accom­modate patients from Ward 1, the only ward affected. This will allow the specialist asbestos removal technicians unrestricted access to the areas affected and minimise disruption to clinical activities. Paul Kingsmore, director of Health Facilities Scotland, who is advising NHS Shetland said: “This is a sensible course of action. Health Facilities Scotland are working closely with NHS Shet­land to ensure that all appropriate action is taken, in maintaining a safe environment for staff and patients.”

The board commissioned a recog­nised external expert com­pany to conduct an asbestos survey in September 2007. At that time asbestos was not discovered, and a further survey will be undertaken.

“We are currently identifying anyone who may have been carrying out building maintenance in this cupboard and potentially could have disturbed the asbestos,” said Mr Kingsmore. “However, we believe that the risks of significant exposure are minimal.”

NHS Shetland director of public health Dr Sarah Taylor said: “Asbestos is very common in older buildings in Shetland and else­where, and when we do find it we need to take all the necessary precautions to safeguard staff and the public. I am confident that we have done this on this occasion. There is no risk to patients or visitors, clinical staff or cleaners, and estates staff have received the appropriate advice from occupational health.”

Interim director of service im­provement Chris Nicolson, respon­sible for estates, said: “I have spoken to the maintenance staff; they are trained in asbestos aware­ness and understand the risks posed by exposure asbestos. It is disappointing that the asbestos survey did not find this asbestos; I have asked for a further survey in order that any remaining asbestos can be registered and dealt with appropriately. I am pleased that the contractors and our staff took appropriate action and I am confident that these boards can now be removed with minimal disruption to patients or clinical work.”


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