Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast

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Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
The Royal Victoria Hospital (commonly known as "The Royal" or the "R.V.H.") is a hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The hospital, which provides over a fifth of the acute beds in Northern Ireland and treats half a million patients a year, is currently undergoing a £74m refurbishment. This has included an extension to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, new wards in the main hospital, a new Accident & Emergency department and a new maternity unit. The hospital is located in West Belfast, approximately 15 minutes walk from the City Centre (Spires Centre, Jury's Hotel, Fitzwilliam Hotel site), on bus routes. The hospital has a Regional Virus Centre which is one of the four laboratories in the United Kingdom on the WHO list of laboratories able to perform PCR for rapid diagnosis of influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in humans.

Completed in 1906, it is a landmark in building engineering, laying claim to being the first air conditioned building in the world. Belfast's Sirocco Works factory pioneered the development of air conditioning. The original hospital was designed in 1899 by architects Henman and Cooper of Birmingham, the culmination of preparations from the mid-1890s to modernise hospital design with special regard to advances in both antiseptic treatment in surgery and the successful application of Plenum ventilation. Notable elements of the design of the original hospital were in the layout and technology. This was a time in the UK when there was concern in a period of relative social responsibility in having a sufficient hospital treatment facility within or close to city centres when it was recognised there was little available space for expanding existing hospitals or building new institutions. The design of the Royal Victoria Hospital paid much less attention to the usual requirements of hospital sites, for good access to sun and fresh air. Traditional pavilion-style hospital design was forsaken. Wards were placed compactly side to side, on one level, wall to wall, without intervening opening spaces. There were many long communal wards in which large windows were at the ends of wards, with clerestory windows providing daylight otherwise. Balconies, small for the ward sizes, were placed at the end of long wards, and also that there were some outdoor areas for access. Outdoor access had no integral relation to the design of the hospital buildings. As the hospital grew, the exterior area available for patients diminished. Today this amounts nearly fully to roads within the site and parking areas. For clothed and able patients, the very small Dunville Park lies beside the hospital, a park unsheltered from traffic noise. Close housed city hospital accommodation with little open space was not unique in Europe, nor even in the British Isles at that time, though it was not of the trend of the times and before in the British Isles, notably at a time of social responsibility. The design of the Royal Victoria Hospital may be important as it reacted against that trend at a time when cities were expanding rapidly. Perhaps this design and similar designs of the time of large growth became a foundational inspiration, or facilitating precedent, for the many city hospitals in the UK today which are of a different world to those of the Victorian era where outdoor access was seen as important, sometimes even possibly essential, for recuperation. (Notably, it could not be said there has been any clearly identifiable principle or trend nationally to develop hospitals including good open spaces since that time.) Fresh air supply in the original R.V.H. was based on the Plenum principle, the real 'first' status of the large public building being that it had humidity control, the function of choice of temperature. The Royal Victoria Hospital and its subsidiary hospitals became the Royal Group of Hospitals (or The Royal Hospitals). The Royal Hospitals site has developed through the years to occupy one very large area in the city of Belfast to the west of the city, a walkable distance from the city centre. Most of this site is occupied by The Royal Victoria Hospital (this name is sometimes casually spoken to refer to any department from within the Royal Group of Hospitals, and more frequently, The Royal Hospital, as if one body, is spoken to identify any department within the Royal Hospitals). Today this site is clearly made of the original historic buildings of designs agreeable to typical designs of the Victorian period, some visible from Grosvenor Road, and also many later, less architecturally distinguished buildings. It has been seen that the original Victorian designs are partly a free adaptation of an English Renaissance style. The material of the original buildings is very typical in Belfast, red brick with Portland Stone dressings. Quite tall, long, simply functionary middle period Twentieth Century buildings dominate most of the long Falls Road side of the hospital, and give a quite plain character to a section of that busy thoroughfare on one side of the road, west of Grosvenor Road and Springfield Road junction. On this stretch of Falls Road, the mid-20th century hospital buildings face Saint Paul's Roman Catholic Church, Saint Dominic's Grammar School for Girls and typical, simple historic terraced housing of Belfast, some converted to small shops and cafés. At the end of this stretch, near Broadway, The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children occupies a much smaller historic building of Victorian design. Buildings from recent decades and the last few years of typically simple functionary design are located in the middle of the site and bordering the Westlink, largely invisible the Falls Road and Grosvenor Road. The hospital site stretches along near to Broadway to the west and downhill to border the Westlink city link carriageway at the south where some very recent functionary structures can be seen. A slight addition to the main front of the site in West Belfast of very recent years is new railings (Falls Road, going west from the junction of Grosvenor and Springfield Roads). The wavy pattern of the railings implies the structure of DNA. There are little yellow Xs and Ys detailed for X- and Y-chromosomes, and portraits (laser-cut in sheet steel) chart the progress of a human life from birth to the age of 100. Frank Pantridge, the "father of emergency medicine", was a cardiac consultant at the hospital for over thirty years. During his time at the Royal, Pantridge developed the portable defibrillator. The portable defibrillator revolutionised emergency medicine, allowing patients to be treated early by paramedics. Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politician Carmel Hanna worked as a nurse in the hospital. Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) politician David Ervine was admitted on January 7, 2007, and died there the following day. During the Northern Ireland Troubles, the R.V.H. was regarded in some quarters as the best hospital in the world for the treatment of gunshot wounds. Gunshots to the knee, associated with a large number of 'punishment' shootings, enabled the surgeons at the R.V.H. to gain renown with their treatment of such injuries.

Phase 1 - New RVH Hospital The initial phase of the redevelopment plan provided
  • 400 beds
  • 8 new theatres
  • a 25 bed intensive care unit (one of the biggest in Europe)
  • a fracture clinic
  • a central investigations unit
  • an endocrinology unit
  • a pharmacy
  • a restaurant, a coffee bar, a Mace convenient store, and several vending machines.
The new RVH is also linked to the refurbished ”A” Block. The contractors completed the hospital three months ahead of schedule and within budget with first commissioning and use of the new build in autumn 2001 for some outpatient use, first bed occupancy in 2002 and an official opening in 2003. The £42m hospital building was officially opened on 2 September 2003 by HRH Prince Charles, one hundred years after King Edward VII opened the first RVH on 27 July 1903 with Queen Alexandra. The new 29,000sq m building replaced the old red brick Victorian hospital and has gained a Commendation in the Royal Society of Ulster Architects Design Awards and a Commendation from the Irish Landscape Institute Awards 2002. Phase 2A - Imaging Centre & Central Decontamination Centre The £25m Imaging Centre is a stand alone structure located between Block A and the existing Cardiac Theatres on the RVH site. It was completed in March 2007 by contractor Graham Martin and opened shortly thereafter The Central Decontamination Centre opened in May 2006 at a cost of £11m and houses one of the largest hospital instrument cleaning operations in the UK. Phase 2B - Critical Care Building The new £95m critical care building on the RVH site will be located next to the existing accident and emergency department and the outpatients centre. The twelve storey Critical Care Centre was given full planning permission on 23 March 2007 (Ref Z/2006/2083/F). Within the new critical care building will be an accident and emergency department capable of dealing with up to 80,000 attendances a year. Within accident and emergency there will be a resuscitation area, and departments for major and minor injuries and conditions. There will also be a helipad located on top of the building with a dedicated lift to allow for the fast transfer of major trauma cases to the A&E (Accident & Emergency wards). Level 3 of the new building will have four additional new theatres. Levels 5, 6, and 7 will be dedicated to intensive care. There is capacity for sixteen beds per floor, with two eight-bedded wards on each floor. A new education centre will be located on level 8 of the building with a range of varying sized lecture theatres and seminar rooms to replace the existing education building. Level 9 will house the new regional burns unit which replaces the existing unit and provides for 12 beds, as well as supporting accommodation. Construction work began during the summer in 2007 with site clearance work and then piling and basement preparations and is expected to be completed in late 2011. Work on the 63m high building will also involve the extension of the existing Glazed Street ”“ an elevated 2 storey link to the adjacent A-Block and a single storey underground service duct. Phase 2C - Replacement of the outpatients centre and eyes, ears, nose and throat buildings The proposed location of phase 2C is the area adjacent to the new imaging centre, between the new Royal Victoria hospital and the old Victorian corridor that runs parallel with Grosvenor Road.

New Women’s & Children’s Hospital
The £300m project will provide 75,000 m2 of new accommodation including operating theatres, inpatient wards, outpatient gynaecology and children’s accident and emergency departments.