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Health secretary under pressure over troubled hospital

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman's position has been called into question.

Jeane Freeman: Position called into question.
Jeane Freeman: Position called into question. The SNP Twitter

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman's position has been called into question over the troubled new children's hospital in Edinburgh. 

Labour politicians have questioned whether she can carry on and said Parliament should be recalled to deal with the matter. 

The Scottish Conservatives want public spending watchdog Audit Scotland to investigate. 

The Royal Hospital for Children and Young People was due to open last month but Ms Freeman stepped in to overrule NHS Lothian and delay the opening following failed safety checks. 

Since February, the health board has been paying around £1.4m a month for the empty hospital to developers Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL) under the 25-year private finance deal agreed for the new building.

Now, Unison official Tam Waterson, who represents NHS staff in Edinburgh, warned some people fear it may have to be demolished and said Ms Freeman should be held accountable. 

He told the Herald on Sunday newspaper: "We know the drainage is not fit for purpose. 

"It's been flooded twice with nobody in it. There is a school of thought that they might have to rip it down." 

He added: "My understanding is that we will not know the full extent of the drainage issues until the hospital is working at full capacity. That is a major health and safety risk. 

"My big concern is we open the hospital without doing all the checks, satisfying ourselves the drainage is fine, and we then have to close the hospital." 

Labour peer Lord Foulkes told the paper: "Jeane is to blame because she is ultimately responsible for the health board. Parliament should be recalled." 

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: "We are learning more about the Edinburgh Sick Kids scandal by the day and now damning criticism of the Health Secretary from a leading trade unionist brings into question whether she can carry on." 

She added: "It must be sickening for workers in our cash-strapped NHS to see millions going down the drain and no-one is taking responsibility. 

"Ultimately, the buck stops with Jeane Freeman. That the new Edinburgh Sick Kids could be ripped down before it even opens is unthinkable and a public inquiry must get under way." 

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Conservatives also want an inquiry to be held. 

The NHS is carrying out a review of the water, ventilation and drainage systems at the hospital, ordered by Ms Freeman. 

Currently, it is not known when the site will be safe for use.

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