Security of hospital site endangered by youths

Kids are dicing with death on the RVH roofs

LIFE AND DEATH: CCTV at the Royal Victoria Hospital caught these four figures perched precariously on a roof in the hospital grounds – it’s feared someone is going to be killed or injured LIFE AND DEATH: CCTV at the Royal Victoria Hospital caught these four figures perched precariously on a roof in the hospital grounds – it’s feared someone is going to be killed or injured
By Brónach Ní Thuama

SECURITY staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital say it’s only a matter of time before there is a fatality as young people continue to gain access to the hospital’s rooftops.

Youths ranging in age from nine years to early teens are dicing with death on a daily basis as they jump from roof to roof across the sprawling Falls Road site.

At a meeting with Belfast Trust officials and hospital security staff the Andersonstown News was shown CCTV images of young people sliding down sloping rooftops and sliding on roofs that are thick with ice.

Security Manager Danny Cusack and Duty Manager Jason McGrugan told us that they fear it’s only a matter of time before one of these young people loses their life or ends up seriously injured. Jason said: “It started on the Grosvenor Road side at Cardiac Intensive Care, a very fragile environment. It’s now escalated to the Broadway side of the hospital which is the Children’s and also on to building sites within the hospital. However, the most recent incidents have been occurring at the Children’s Hospital, where the buildings are extremely high.

“First and foremost this is a hospital and some of our patients are quite seriously ill, they deserve a peaceful and calm environment where they can get better.

“We are also worried about the safety and security of these young people. We initially thought it was a phase but it has really escalated since last year.

“We have encountered anti-social behaviour, had missiles thrown at us and at passing cars. We’ve experienced verbal abuse and we have even been urinated on. We want to raise awareness within the community about this and we would welcome any assistance from community groups to tackle this issue.

“The roof they are running about on in the Children’s Hospital is the Intensive Care Unit and theatres, not just general wards. Put yourself in the position of parents who are at the bedsides of critically ill children, it’s just not on.”

Jumping

CCTV, which is located across the entire hospital site, has captured footage of young boys and girls at various times and dates running and jumping from roof to roof.

Jason continued: “The images are somewhat shocking, at some point someone is going to fall. We have been engaging with the PSNI who have been trying to help us as best they can but is it a criminal matter? That’s for the police to decide, we are more interested in the health and safety of the individuals.

“We can’t go on to the roof, we don’t go up to tackle them. We try to speak with them and ask them to come down and when we do we are subjected to abuse. We need to get the message out there that this needs to stop. I would be prepared to speak with them myself to show them the dangers of what could potentially happen.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or warm, day or night, this doesn’t stop. At Halloween they set off fireworks repeatedly from the roof of the Children’s which was quite frightening for the young patients. We are employed for patient care, we are concerned for the safety of patients, visitors and members of the public and staff. We are more than willing to meet with any community groups to try and bring a halt to this.”

Danny Cusack added: “We have considerable costs, basically from the beginning of April we are looking at around £25,000 for repairs and additional fencing as well as controls to try and stop people from getting on to the roof. £5,300 was spent in fencing prior to this, we are constantly having to upgrade the security arrangements.

“Some of these kids are going to fall or get killed. We have tried to put measures in place to stop them from climbing up drain pipes or buildings but whatever we do they always seem to find a way to get back up there, they don’t seem to have any fear. You think when you’re that age that you’re indestructible but that’s not the case at all.”

While security staff are busy dealing with the anti-social behaviour they are being distracted from other important tasks.

“There could be a violent incident taking place within the hospital or someone could be in distress and needing our help,” said Jason.

Danny added: “At the beginning of the month a manager reported that staff were confronted in the foyer of the new building by a hysterical father carrying his two-day-old baby who wasn’t breathing. The father had gone to the wrong part of the hospital and staff were immediately called to transport him to the correct part. That occurred in the middle of these young people causing havoc on the roof. Thankfully the baby was okay but it could have ended very badly. Our staff were tied up dealing with these youngsters while there was a potential life-or-death situation occurring inside the building.

Safety

“We aren’t going to give chase or react because we are more concerned with patient safety. It’s reached a stage now where there’s no talking to them and something needs to be done.”

A Belfast Trust spokesperson said: “Our concern is the comfort and wellbeing of our patients, some of whom are extremely unwell. This sort of activity adds to their distress, as well as being very unsettling for the staff who care for them. It is also extremely dangerous for those involved, and we would appeal to them to think about the impact their activities have on our patients, as well as their own safety.”

Sergeant Anthony Greene from the PSNI said: “Our neighbourhood officers work closely with the Belfast Trust on anti-social behaviour and our patrols provide additional support to the security team at the Royal Victoria Hospital site throughout the week and during weekends.

“We are aware of young people involved in actions that are both disruptive and reckless – and could end up causing upset and injury. They run the risk of also ending up with a criminal record.

“I would also appeal to parents in the area to be aware of where their children are, and what they are up to. We all have a responsibility to work together and make this part of West Belfast a safer community in which to live.”

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