Consortium is set to buy troubled hospital

Staff at a troubled private hospital that ran out of cash and patients received a boost yesterday when they were told a buyer had been found for the Health Care International hospital in Clydebank, Strathclyde.

About 200 of the remaining 350 staff attended a meeting at which they were told a Middle Eastern consortium was the preferred bidder for the lavishly equipped £180m hospital.

The consortium, led by the Abu Dhabi Investment Company, has agreed a price and the main conditions of the sale with the receivers.

A staff spokeswoman said: "We were told they hope to have the deal done by the end of January. As far as we are concerned it's a massive step forward.

"We're looking forward to the end of the month when we are told we will be busy with patients. Everyone's pretty confident and hopeful."

Worried bankers called in the receivers in November, only months after the hospital was officially opened. It failed to fill its 240 beds, 21 operating theatres and neighbouring five-star hotel. Marketing men had predicted a steady stream of thousands ofoverseas patients but they never materialised.

Opposition politicians attacked the project, which received £40m of public money, as an ill-conceived financial white elephant.

The hospital was continuing to trade but a spokeswoman declined yesterday to say how many patients were being treated there.

A spokesman for the receivers refused to discuss what price had been agreed for the hospital. The prospective owners have indicated they intend to develop the hospital as a centre of international medical excellence.