The beginning and the end for Forth Park Hospital

Demolition work has begun on the empty Forth Park Hospital in Kirkcaldy, a building which was much heralded upon its opening back in 1976.

Staff midwife Elinor Muir with two new mothers; left is Helen Hill with son Stephen and with son Colin on the right is Helen Key.
Staff midwife Elinor Muir with two new mothers; left is Helen Hill with son Stephen and with son Colin on the right is Helen Key.

Built over five years, at a cost of £1.1m, it was handed over to Fife Health Board at the start of October of that year, the end of a process that had begun in the 1960s.

Upon the formal handover Fife Health Board chairman, John Crawford, described the new hospital as ‘an extremely important and an extremely welcome advance’ in the Region’s health programme.

The Fife Free Press reported that “a further six to eight weeks will elapse before the first patients are admitted – a necessary time scale for the clinically stringent cleaning on the new three-storey building, the installation and testing of equipment, and the familiarisation of staff with the new geography, which includes Fife’s first purpose-built special nursery for the intensive care of newborn babies”.

Staff in the reception area of the newly opened Forth Park Maternity Hospital in December 1976. From left are Sister E. Fisher, midwife M. Jack and Nursing Auxiliary E. Kaufmann.

The site stretched over five acres bordering with Baldwin Crescent, Forth Park Drive and Hendry Road, with the Fife School of Midwifery situated in its grounds.

The main ward had a total of 75 beds – three wards in total making up that section of the hospital – sub-divided into four and one-bed units.

Comfort aids included a four-channel radio system to each bedhead unit, dayrooms with radio and TV facilities and each ward was equipped with its own telephone trolley service.

The first floor special nursery complex had 25 cots, designed for the intensive care of newly-born babies, with a layout known as ‘race-track’ in which the inner and outer units were separated by a barrier corridor through which only gowned and specially-booted staff and mothers could pass.

The main entrance of Kirkcaldy's newly built Forth Park Maternity Hospital in October 1976.

Two months later and the first mothers with newborn babies began arriving in the hospital and specialist ante-natal services were preparing to open there, taking over from clinics in Fair Isle and Loughborough Roads.

There was overnight accommodation for mothers of seriously ill or very premature babies and an ante~natal suite is on the ground floor with a bank of six consulting rooms, a mother-craft clinic, a crèche and rooms for social service work.

As well as the mums and babies, expectant fathers had also been taken into account with a new luxury sitting room equipped with a tea bar where they could pace the floor.

But in a sign of the changing times Principal Nursing Officer Margaret Grieve told the Fife Free Press she hoped it would be under-used as she was encouraging fathers to be present during labour and the actual birth.

“Over 50 per cent of husbands stay with their wives during labour and half of that number stay on for the birth,” she said.

“We feel it is a great help to the mother for the husband to be present.

“A lot of emphasis is out on establishing a mother-child relationship, but really we should be establishing a parent-child relationship, with the father involved just as much.

“If fathers wish to be present, we encourage it but it must be a decision for the husband and wife to make together.”

The hospital would see generations of babies from Kirkcaldy and the surrounding areas born there over 30 plus years, and there was much sadness when the staff and maternity services were moved to a new modern facility at £170 million wing of Victoria Hospital.

The building finally closed its door for the final time on January 9, 2012 with the area now earmarked for the eventual construction of a large housing development.