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Two babies born in fire-damaged Wexford Hospital – but normal service won’t resume for months

Fire damage at Wexford General Hospital. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Padraig Byrne and Eilish O'ReganIndependent.ie

Two babies who were born safely yesterday in the fire-damaged Wexford General Hospital brought joy after the trauma of this week’s blaze, as the first moves also got underway to bring back some of the patients who had to be evacuated during the emergency.

However, it will be weeks – and possibly months – before the hospital is back to running as normal.

A hospital spokeswoman said: ”The repatriation process of bringing patients back has begun. The first patients will come from University Hospital Waterford. This is the first step in the process, which will take several weeks.“

The maternity unit reopened yesterday morning after Wednesday’s fire, which led to extensive damage. More than 90 patients had to be evacuated on Wednesday after a major blaze in the plant room, housing machinery, at the top of the hospital.

It led to extensive smoke and water damage, as well as part of the roof caving in before it was brought under control.

A large fleet of ambulances had to transfer patients, some seriously ill, and bring them to Waterford, Kilkenny, Dublin, Cork and Navan, Co Meath. Around 29 patients remained in the hospital, where they will continue to receive care.

Outpatient clinics will resume from Monday but other services, including its emergency department, remain closed.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited the hospital yesterday, and he said he was struck by the amount of personal belongings patients had to leave behind in the hurry to safety.

A hospital spokeswoman said: “We are aware that the emergency department in Waterford is extremely busy.

“However, CareDoc have ensured that additional GPs during out-of-hours are available within the Wexford and Waterford area, to prevent travel to Waterford’s emergency department from Wexford, and for the Waterford Community to avail of alternative services.”

Mr Varadkar said: “It’s going to be weeks to months before the hospital is back up and running fully. That is the objective and I've given everyone here the assurance that the government will do everything humanly possible to support the efforts to get this hospital up and running.

"But with the best will in the world, that’s likely to be weeks to months at this stage. Hospital Manager Linda O’Leary said that her team would begin assessing the options in terms of a phased re-opening of the emergency department “when we are assured by the technical experts that it is safe to do so.”

Ms O’Leary added that there was no timeline for the release of the technical assessment of the damage to insurers and HSE Estates, but that assessors are still working in the area of the fire outbreak.

Mr Varadkar said: “One thing that did hit me going into some of the wards is that it had that Mary Celeste feeling, where people had left their belongings behind because they had to evacuate so quickly. But efforts are now being made to ensure that everyone gets their belongings back and they’re being sent either to their homes or to whichever hospital they’ve been transferred to.”

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