It may be hard to credit for many, but it is now 36 years since Her Majesty The Queen opened the new Â£ 30million Raigmore Hospital with its iconic eight-story tower. He completed a suggested foreground a quarter of a century earlier, writes Bill McAllister.
It was the former North Regional Hospital Council that in 1960 devised the plan for a central general hospital for Inverness to replace emergency facilities which deteriorated in wartime. Two years later, this proposal was included in the Scottish Department of Health’s National Hospital Plan, which confirmed Raigmore as the natural location.
The first phase began in 1966 with a low-rise complex offering outpatient services opened four years later. The project also included radiotherapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy facilities as well as an archive service and a pharmacy.
An Inverness Central School of Nursing with accommodation was another innovation as well as the Post-Graduate Medical Center, which developed medical education in the Highlands.
In 1977, financial approval was given for the second phase, the culmination of which was to be the service tower comprising nine operating theaters, a new accident and emergency unit, a renal unit, offices, a kitchen and dining rooms and a chapel.
Work began in 1978 with the last buildings of the original Raigmore House estate – a car shed and gardener’s house – demolished in 1983. Part of the garden wall remains across the parking lot, the last legacy of the premedical role of the region.
The soaring tower was a major topic of discussion at the time.
In March 1985, some fifty orthopedic patients received flowers from the guides because they became the first to trade the old war rooms for the new spacious facilities. The following month, Pediatric Surgery, Gynecology and General Service patients followed and in May Her Majesty proceeded with the grand opening while the Royal Northern Infirmary patients were also transferred.
From an era of paraffin stoves in the wards, no food and laundry choices changed once a week, Raigmore had made steady progress to meet changing demands and expectations.
A separate construction contract began providing staff quarters, with 32 three-apartment houses, one two-apartment block and three 32-bedroom blocks. This was a huge leap from the thinking of 1965, when pen shooters felt it was too expensive to provide sinks in nurses’ rooms!
A new maternity hospital opened in January 1988, and two years later a new isolation room was added, just as the last hospital buildings from 1941 were demolished.
Construction continued as medicine progressed and today Raigmore Hospital has 452 beds and employs 2,800 people, making it a major employer for the area.
The old war facility and even the Raigmore of the 1970s and early 1980s could never have faced the enormous challenges posed by Covid-19. Indeed, in July of this year, the hospital was placed on âcode blackâ status after reaching capacity, as large numbers of staff were forced to self-isolate.
They may well be tested again this winter, but residents of the Highlands see Raigmore as their main defense against the pandemic.
Eighty years since its first opening, supported by the skills and commitment of its staff, our hospital has continued to evolve to reach the position where it is of such great value to the communities it serves. .
Sponsored by Ness Castle Lodges.