WARPED metal and a gutted shell were the only things left of the Royal’s main entrance following a devastating fire last year.
But following a £2m restoration project, the building is unrecognisable from those scenes of devastation.
Last June’s blaze, which was started by an electrical fault in a convenience store drinks fridge, went on to burn for more than three hours, destroying the main entrance, tearing a hole in the roof and damaging the accident and emergency area and the fracture clinic.
Now, just ten months after flames tore through the Calow hospital, the newly restored area has reopened to visitors and patients.
“It has been a long 10 months but it is fantastic to have it open to patients at last” said Andrew Jones, director of facilities at the Royal. “This all brings it back to normality – we have had staff working in Portakabins through the winter, and of course the public have had to be patient with us. But we have definitely exorcised a few ghosts now I think.”
The main changes have seen the reception desk moved back, improvements to the auto booking system and greater accessibility for wheelchair users, a bigger shop, a lighter ceiling and floor and new red seating.
Mr Jones, added: “There’s no reason why this area should feel like a hospital. We don’t give clinical care here, so we wanted to make it a place where people can relax.”
Jennifer Ingleby, from Bolsover, was visiting the hospital on Tuesday, while her husband underwent a minor operation. She said: “It feels really open and light, it is fantastic. I can sit here, do my knitting and enjoy a coffee while waiting.”
Of the £2m spent on rebuilding the main entrance, £1.8m was covered by the insurance, but the Royal spent around £200,000 on fire protection including sprinklers and fire shutters.
Richard Hall, head of public sector at contractor, Styles & Wood, said: “We have had our work cut out with it being the main entrance, because you have to take the public into consideration and try and have things running behind the scenes.
“But we have had a fantastic relationship with the hospital’s estates team, and we have had 40 or 50 people working at a time to get this ready to reopen.”
Chief executive, Gavin Boyle, who joined the hospital in March, added: “I wasn’t here when the fire made such an impact on our staff, patients and visitors but the way people came together and got on with things without cancelling a single outpatient appointment epitomises the spirit that I’ve come to know since arriving here.
“First impressions are important and I think that the main entrance strikes the right balance in creating a professional environment that is, at the same time, warm and welcoming.”