Thursday, February 10, 2005

A new era in Healthcare for Gibraltar, says Minister Britto

Minister for Health Ernest Britto yesterday hailed “a new era in healthcare in Gibraltar” with the opening of the new state-of-the art St Bernard’s Hospital at Europort on Saturday February 12.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Mr Britto expressed a sense of satisfaction and pride at what has been achieved and declared that this was “a great moment in the history of the Gibraltar Health Authority.”

As workmen gave the finishing touches to the impressive facilities which will advance local medical services on an unprecedented scale, the Minister announced that the main transfer of approximately 100 patients from one hospital to the other will start at 8am on Saturday and continue throughout the day. Patients will be transferred using ambulances, coaches and specially adapted vehicles capable of lifting wheelchairs.

The Minister said that Gibraltar would have a modern, hi-tech equipped hospital for the next 150 years and that the policy of the Government had been to provide it. Mr Britto continued:

We are at a most important point in our life, our opportunity to excel and our renewed optimism in providing the best care possible for our people are now within our grasp. The migration of non-core Departments as well as the transfer of stores and ancillary equipment from the old St Bernard’s Hospital to the new has taken place over the past weeks. In addition today will see the opening of new beds at Mount Alvernia which will provide much needed access to long term care beds for up to 50 people currently waiting at St Bernard’s Hospital. We are really pleased at this transfer for these people will finally have access to the specialised programming available at their new home at Mount Alvernia.

Many of our staff are very excited about moving from their old cramped quarters to a modern unit with greater capacity for excellence in patient care including patient privacy. We look forward with great anticipation to the first baby to be born in the new maternity unit, to providing great care in the ITU and to reducing the waiting times for procedures in theatre and the expansion in diagnostic services.

The Primary Care Centre will be increased on Saturday for treatment of minor injuries and other health problems. The hours of operation are 8am till 8pm thus covering the complete timeframe for the move. We therefore ask members of the public to use the Primary Care Centre and only to attend the Accident and Emergency department in cases of genuine medical emergencies on Saturday.

As we understand that people will be very anxious about their loved ones during the move, we have planned for visiting from 6.45pm until 7.45pm. Visitors will be met and helped to find the location of the ward that they are seeking and will be limited to two per patient at a time.

The opportunity has been taken to introduce new names for wards and clinical areas to commemorate persons who have made memorable contributions to health care in Gibraltar and who have now passed away. These include John Mackintosh Ward,
Victoria Mackintosh Ward, Capt. Murchison Orthopaedic and Trauma Ward,
Dudley Toomey Surgical Ward, James Giraldi Critical Care Unit, Andrew Correa Operating Suite, Mary Brooks Outpatient Department, Millicent Mackintosh Maternity Ward, Albert Ferrary Paediatric High Dependency Unit.

As from Monday 14 February, visiting hours will be extended on general wards. The new hours will be from 3pm until 7.45pm daily including weekends instead of 6.45pm to 7.45pm as at present. ITU, Rainbow and Maternity wards will continue to have special visiting hours. If in doubt call the Help Centre at 79700. You may reach all services by calling our new help Centre at 79700. New phone numbers and an insert for your telephone directory have been circulated in the Press.

We will attempt to discharge all patients whose medical condition allows prior to the move. This may include some patients who can go home for the weekend and return on Monday. We thank patients and their families in anticipation of their co-operation and assistance in this regard. In order to reduce the potential for loss of special items we will ask patients to send all but essential personal possessions home with their families prior to the move. We will take great care in moving all personal items.

We ask all members of the public to co-operate with the police who will be facilitating the transfer of up to 100 patients across town. Starting at 8am on Saturday 12th patients will be transported by ambulance, wheelchair vehicle or coach to the New Hospital. It is expected that the move will be completed in time for visiting hours. Please note that there will be new temporary traffic arrangements on some roads to facilitate the move. Visitor parking has been virtually non-existent at the old St Bernard’s site. There are no parking facilities for visitors at this time at the new Hospital. Visitors parking facilities will be available early next year following the completion of the adjoining Euro Plaza Building.

To date we have concentrated our efforts on the move and the transfer of existing services. We are really looking forward to the provision of new services. Notice of the opening dates for new services such as CT scanning, Mammography, additional day surgery and Dialysis will be given separately.

As with any major exercise of this sort, that is the move into a New Hospital, there are bound to be teething problems both during the move and in the initial period. GHA Staff and others will work hard to minimise them but we do ask for patience and understanding as and when they may occur.


Mr Britto also highlighted the great co-operation they have had from the St John Ambulance, the Police and the City Fire Brigade in planning and executing the move to the new hospital. He was also deeply grateful for the assistance of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, Community Projects, JBS and the GHA Staff.

Guided Tour of New Hospital

Derek Alman, Deputy Director of Operations at the new St Bernard’s Hospital gave the press a detailed guided tour of facilities that have impressed every visitor who has seen the services that will be afforded to the public as from Saturday. Some of the most modern and specialised medical systems in the international market have been installed at the new hospital. From its spacious, well lit entrance, ample corridors, fire safety measures, scenic surroundings and pleasant internal decorations and furnishing, the public will quickly appreciate the top of the range medical care patients can expect to receive as from Saturday.

Among the innovations, every patient will have an individual telephone and television set. Several pay-phones are also distributed around the hospital. Various comfortable waiting areas and facilities for relatives to be able to speak to doctors will also be provided around the hospital. The additional space has allowed hospital planners to introduce additional features and details for patient care and for the maximum comfort of relatives.

Starting with the reception where there will be an information counter to the public, any comparison with the previous crammed conditions at the old hospital becomes all the more striking. The tour continues through the large outpatients sections, the physiotherapy and rehabilitation department equipped with gymnasium and large pool. There are five specialised operating theatres for patients requiring major interventions and another surgical area for minor operations that will not block the main programme of operations as was the case in the old hospital. This is complemented by the day surgery ward. The Theatre manager is John Joe Alvez.

The Children’s or Rainbow Ward is one of the highlights of the hospital where the design has sought to capture as much of a homely atmosphere for children as possible within the medical needs of such a ward, Mary Sene who is in charge of the ward said.

The CT Scan is one of the most modern in the world and nurses have been trained in UK over the past year to use this sophisticated piece of medical equipment.

Accident and Emergency will consist of its own section as opposed to what was previously known as Outpatients.

The Resuscitation unit is another of the highlights of the hospital. The mortuary will be substantially more spacious and well designed to cater for the needs of relatives in far more comfortable surroun-dings than in the past.

In terms of electricity generation, the hospital will have a three megawatt generator that will ensure it is not affected by power cuts in Gibraltar. To give an idea of the capacity of this generator, the Waterport power station for the whole of the Rock has a 15 megawatt generator.

The pharmaceutical stores is under the charge of Robert Danino.

The air conditioning system imports chilled water from Europort for distribution throughout the building.

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