A former health and safety inspector has called on bosses of Heanor Memorial Hospital to reveal full details of its asbestos findings at the 89-year-old premises.
The health facility on Ilkeston Road has been closed down since September after asbestos was found in its boiler room.
Further inspections revealed the potentially hazardous substance to be more ‘widespread’ than first thought.
But with a public meeting to discuss the future of the hospital set for tonight, retired health and safety consultant of 33 years Mike Sparkes, has challenged the NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group to reveal the true extent of asbestos use throughout its buildings.
The 76-year-old, also speaking as concerned former patient of the hospital, says the public need to know before they can make an informed response to tonight’s consultation event.
He said: “We need to know what type of asbestos it is, where it is in the hospital and what damage has been done to it?”
“What is so wrong it has to be tackled so urgently?”
Mr Sparkes, a widower of School Lane, Ripley, says he carried out many asbestos inspections throughout his career, which saw him work on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) between 1961 and 1994.
He said in his experience the substance can be removed using specialist techniques, but the work is costly.
“What you absolutely cannot do is knock the building down without removing all the asbestos first,” he added.
But ahead of the meeting a Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (SDCCG) spokesperson said: “Leaving the asbestos undisturbed is not an option if the necessary upgrading of the hospital’s infrastructure is to be carried out.”
He added that members of the public were welcome to ask questions about the asbestos issues at the meeting.
This week Amber Valley borough councillor for Heanor Paul Jones claimed he had been given assurances by SDCCG bosses that the site will not ‘permanently close’.
Following a series of meetings with SDCCG bosses over the past week Cllr Jones said: “It’s reassuring that health chiefs are talking to local community representatives about this issue because the future of the hospital is important to all of us.
“By making it clear that they have no plans to permanently close the site and that they want to listen to the views of local people they contradicted some of the scare stories that are being circulated about the hospitals future.
“But just as we’ve seen Tory budget cuts put Heanor Fire Station at risk, I am worried that further cuts to NHS spending could change things and threaten plans to reopen the hospital. Withdrawal of health services from the site is not an option.”
Last week Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills launched a petition to see the hospital kept open. He said: “We have had hundreds of responses so far, but it is important the number of signatures reflects the strength of feeling in Heanor.” Head to www.nigelmillsmp.com/heanorhospital to sign it.