Health chiefs under fire over Bartlet

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a Suffolk hospital today accused health chiefs of closing it “step by step” - months before a final decision is made on its future.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a Suffolk hospital today accused health chiefs of closing it “step by step” - months before a final decision is made on its future.

The Bartlet at Felixstowe has been earmarked for closure and to be sold for £3.5 million to help write-off some of the crippling debts faced by the county's health service.

But campaigners say consultation on the suggestion is a smokescreen because the convalescent and rehabilitation unit is being closed bit by bit now.

In the past few weeks, staff have been given advice on where to find new jobs and some have left, costly agency staff are not being used to save money, new admissions have been stopped, and now a ward has been closed and the number of beds halved from 50 to 25.

“When it comes to making the decision on whether or not to close the Bartlet, it will be easy - because it will be virtually closed,” fumed Roy Gray, chairman of the Save Our Felixstowe Hospitals action group.

“The public consultation is a complete smokescreen. The Primary Care Trust has decided it wants to close the Bartlet and that is what it is doing.

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“They say they are not encouraging staff to leave but what would you do if your bosses said we are closing your place of work and gave you a card with jobs advice on it?

“Beds are closing, no patients are coming in - the staff can see that. When we get to decision day, the PCT will say we cannot get any staff to run it - I can hear them saying it now. Well, that never happened in any other year.

“The Bartlet should be run as it has always been run until the decision day. If the overwhelming view of the people of Suffolk is to keep it open, it should stay open.”

The PCT has said it would not be prudent to wait until consultation is over before preparing people for potential changes in their roles.

It was not pre-empting the outcome of the consultation but some staff are finding the current situation stressful and some have indicated job advice information would be useful.

Jeremy Peters, head of communications for Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts, said the number of beds had been reduced because of staff shortages and a desire to save money by not using agency nurses but this did not prejudice the consultation process.

It was not proving easy to attract people to fill vacancies when it was well known that the future of the unit was under discussion.

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINKS: www.saveourhospitals.felixstowecommunity.co.uk

www.suffolkeast.nhs.uk

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