New centre will have empty beds

CASH strapped Ipswich Hospital will not open all the beds at the multi-million pound Garrett Anderson treatment centre when it opens in January, it was revealed today.

CASH strapped Ipswich Hospital will not open all the beds at the multi-million pound Garrett Anderson treatment centre when it opens in January, it was revealed today.

Despite the accident and emergency department doubling in size there will be few extra beds, and the rest of the centre, including intensive care, will also open with unused bays.

A senior A&E consultant said he fears overcrowding will continue and people will have to wait on trolleys in public areas for beds.

But today the hospital said although it would only permanently open some of the beds, there is the opportunity to open more when demand is high.

It added that the centre had been built bigger than needed so the departments can expand in the future.

It is understood that out of the six new resuscitation beds in A&E, three will open - the same number as currently available in A&E.

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Likewise, there will be 13 cubicles for major assessment patients, but only nine will open - also the same as now.

However, there will be an extra cubicle in the children's A&E area, which aims to become the best in the region, and two extra beds in ambulatory care for patients who bring themselves into hospital rather than arriving in an ambulance.

In intensive care there will be the capacity for 22 beds, but ten will open to start with.

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: “We will only open as many beds as we need, based on how many patients we treat now. We are building more than we need ready for a few years down the line.

“The centre will be staffed to treat the number of people we treat now, as that is what we are commissioned for. However, we want to provide best patient care and if a bed is there and a patient needs it, we will open it.

“The life of the building is to be at least 30 years. We expect as more and more care is delivered in the community, hospitals will become more specialist so levels of complexity and needs will increase. We've been deliberate in building extra space, it's not that we are not able to open it.

“Most importantly, there will be huge benefits with more privacy and better dignity and state-of-the-art care for patients. It will give us an enormous boost in being infection free."

But David Lewis, emergency medicine consultant, said: "The trust board and PCT expect us to see a similar number of patients as we are at the moment so they are not prepared to fund additional space we have there over and above what we have now.

“At peak times we will exceed that and I imagine we will continue to have queues and I expect problems with overcrowding to continue.

“We would like to be able to open all the beds. Patients will benefit from modern monitoring and equipment and surroundings but they won't necessarily have any more space.

"We will continue to put forward business cases to get the cubicles open as the reason we decided to move in the first place was overcrowding."

Mr Lewis said there is a hospital-wide project under way to streamline and speed up admissions. When complete, it is thought other departments will free up beds more readily for accident and emergency patients.

Prue Rush, from the independent patient and public involvement forum, said: "It seems a shame that if you are going to have a brand new, expensive building, that it can't be utilised fully.

“It will be interesting to see how much of the completed centre will be opened."

The Garrett Anderson Centre, named after the Suffolk-born first female doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, will include a day surgery suite, a critical care centre and a 40-bed surgery and theatre centre.

IPSWICH Hospital has given its strongest hint yet that it could abandon plans to build a multi-storey staff car park on the site.

Fears have been raised that the planned 465-space structure in nearby Pearson Road would be axed as a result of cost-cutting measures at the cash-strapped hospital.

The building was granted planning permission in 2005 along with the Garrett Anderson treatment centre.

But the hospital is carrying out a review to decide whether or not to go ahead with the project, which is expected to be announced soon.

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said the “world had changed” since the Garrett Anderson centre had been planned.

She said: “We have changed visiting hours so demands on the car park are different now. We have introduced the walking boundary. We are trying to encourage greener travel so all park-and-ride buses now come to the hospital.

“There is a long time between the idea of a new building and the fruition of that new building.

“The way we use the site has changed. We are moving services away from the oldest part of the hospital into the newest.

“Because of that there will be areas of the hospital that are not used which could be taken over for car parking. It may not be a multi-storey. No decision has been taken one way or another.”

The issue has been of concern to those living near the hospital who have been plagued by worsening parking problems in recent years.

But Ms Rowsell said: “We regularly patrol residents' areas and there is nothing to suggest those cars are staff members' cars. They are public roads.”