Fribourg: Visit to the den of the Friborg Hospital

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The HFR must face significant investments to accomplish its mission. Liberty has slipped into the unknown bowels of this great ship. Reporting.

The basements of the HFR house complex technical installations, some of which are showing the weight of the years. © Charly Rappo

The basements of the HFR house complex technical installations, some of which are showing the weight of the years. © Charly Rappo

Published on 04.05.2024

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The people of Friborg will have to decide, on June 9, whether they wish to help the Friborg Hospital (HFR), whose financial situation is critical. Built more than fifty years ago, the HFR faces many challenges, including that of investing sufficiently (but not too much) to enable it to fulfill its mission while awaiting the construction of a new hospital there. horizon 2035.

Freedom slipped into the bowels of the main building of this ship comprising nine floors and three basements. Guided tour of places normally inaccessible to the general public and to most HFR staff in the company of Stéphane Brand, director of operations, the coordinator of all hospital activities, and Cédric Galley, head of the service technical.

Out of breath boilers

The first impression that invades the visitor, upon entering the first basement, is the dilapidated appearance of the two boilers, one of which shows signs of oxidation. “At the time, there were four boilers and, since 2007, we have been connected to district heating (CAD). These two old boilers serve as backup during extreme cold or in the event of a Saidef breakdown,” explains Cédric Galley, while noting that one of the two machines runs on fuel oil and no longer meets the standards in force. It can run a maximum of 30 hours per year.

“We have, under the car park, two tanks of around one million liters of fuel oil each, of which around 170,000 liters remain. When the CAD was not yet present, negative temperatures of 10 degrees resulted in a daily consumption of around 15,000 liters!” Note that the hospital is required to be powered by three heat sources: gas, fuel oil and CAD.

“The capacity of the water tanks is equivalent to three days of consumption”

Cedric Galley

And the traces of rust visible on one of the two boilers? They are explained by a reduction in temperature from 160 to 90 degrees since the outsourcing of the laundry room. The boilers are overcapacity compared to their use and condensation forms between the insulation and their casing, hence the phenomenon of oxidation. “A project is under discussion with Groupe E to renovate the boiler room and install a heat pump,” continues the technical service manager. Estimated costs of work to replace these boilers: 3.5 million francs.

Huge swimming pools

Going deeper into the bowels of the hospital, the visitor discovers the water plant in the third basement. You also need a specific badge to enter. We arrived at what was called the war hospital. With impressive surfaces, some of which are unoccupied. “End-of-year celebrations were organized until 2006 in part of these premises,” notes the operations director.

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© Charly Rappo

Further away, there are also civil protection shelters and water supplies. The deafening noise of the machines testifies to the important activity taking place there. “The water arrives from Marly and we store it in two tanks,” explains Cédric Galley. The tanks, with a capacity of 800,000 and 1 million liters, guarantee the hospital’s water autonomy. “The effective capacity is approximately 1.2 million liters, which corresponds to three days of consumption. We have the obligation, in order to avoid any contamination, to renew the water every 72 hours. In addition, there are two water inlets in the event of a power outage.”

On the day of our visit, one of the two reservoirs was undergoing annual maintenance work, giving it the appearance of an enormous empty swimming pool. “Until 2017, we were still using pumps dating from the 1970s,” notes Cédric Galley while pointing out the old pipes whose color reveals obvious traces of asbestos. Replaced seven years ago, the pumps transport water to the sanitation center to distribute it to the various HFR buildings. Cost of annual pond maintenance: between 30,000 and 40,000 francs.

Sanitary center

We go up one floor into the basement, towards the sanitation center where the water is distributed. But also transformed according to needs. We produce fresh water, ultra-pure water for patient dialysis, osmosis water for sterilization or even distilled water for the laboratory, among others. Work has been underway since 2023 for the production of hot water and should end this summer. They consist of the construction of three tanks with the aim of recovering the energy from the cold compressors to preheat the water, i.e. around 100,000 francs. savings per year. Total cost of the project: 745,000 francs.

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© Charly Rappo

Power plant

A few meters away is the power station, where the work is among the most urgent but also delicate in order to respect safety standards. Several cabinets used for distribution to the various buildings date from the construction of the hospital. “Maintenance costs are high because the buildings were built at different times and each has its own facilities,” summarizes Cédric Galley. A renovation project is planned for 2025-2026 and is estimated at more than 1.5 million francs.

WCs outside the rooms

The dilapidation of the HFR is also visible in its rooms, which have changed very little since the building came into operation in 1972. “Today, that is no longer how a hospital is built,” summarizes Stéphane Brand. The operations director uses the number of beds per room as proof. The HFR has around six hundred beds on all its sites, more than half of which are in Fribourg. There are thirty-one rooms with four to five beds out of the one hundred and thirteen registered in internal medicine, surgery, orthopedic surgery and gynecology.

“Certain rooms have five beds, whereas a new hospital essentially houses individual, modular rooms, which can accommodate one or two beds.” An uncomfortable situation for patients and for nursing staff with little space to carry out examinations or during medical visits. The architecture of the HFR, whose ceilings are also low, is therefore no longer adapted to current operations.

On the sanitary side, here again, the standards have evolved. They are now installed inside the rooms, which is not always the case at the HFR. The same goes for the sinks which are sometimes found in the hallway. However, a renovation of the cramped sanitary facilities is not on the agenda before moving to the future hospital. “As soon as there are partitions to be knocked down, for example, there is the risk of discovering asbestos, with additional costs,” adds Cédric Galley, head of the technical service. SSC

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