NEWS

Managers are investigating a series of power cuts at the country's first private finance initiative hospital, which medical staff have blamed on poor building and maintenance standards.

Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle suffered a major power failure last Thursday lunchtime and parts of the hospital were without power for up to 11 minutes after one of two back-up generators failed.

Two hours later fire-fighters were called in and patients and staff had to be evacuated from the radiotherapy department after a transformer caught fire.

Also affected were operating theatres and intensive care, where equipment was temporarily switched to battery power, while the MRI scanner and computer systems failed too.

The problems continued into Friday morning as power failed for a second time, forcing the hospital again to switch to its emergency generators for around four hours.

Engineers blamed the initial power failure on a cable fault at the hospital's on-site sub-station, but Dr Paul Dyson, chair of the infirmary's medical staff committee, said: 'Consultants here are seriously worried about standards of maintenance and building. At the MSC meeting next month, we will bring this up as an agenda item:

there are so many things not being done properly, and not being corrected properly when pointed out.

'We are concerned patient welfare is being put at risk. We feel maintenance and construction standards were skimped in the first place, and It is all part of PFI's desire to cut costs and make profit. '

Although no-one was available to comment on Dyson's concerns, the trust would be investigating the catalogue of events. A spokesperson for North Cumbria Acute Hospitals trust said the power cuts did not have a major impact on patient care, and that while some treatments were postponed, most delayed operations were able to go ahead on Thursday afternoon.