�1.4million hospital bed expansion scheme

A MULTI-MILLION pound project to expand the number of beds at an Essex hospital has been completed after bosses admitted a "lack of capacity" meant they had been struggling to cope with patient numbers.

James Hore

A MULTI-MILLION pound project to expand the number of beds at an Essex hospital has been completed after bosses admitted a "lack of capacity" meant they had been struggling to cope with patient numbers.

A total of �1.4million has been spent to provide an 11-bed specialist isolation unit at Colchester General Hospital designed to care for people who have contracted either MRSA or Clostridium difficile (C-diff).

Bosses say the new unit, which includes seven single and two double rooms, will help to free up 20 beds on the Gainsborough Wing for care of the elderly patients.


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The trust's isolation ward was previously located there but, on average, only four to seven beds were in use at any one time.

And work has also been finished on a 12-bed extension to the hospital's stroke unit which has opened for patients, bringing the total spend to �2.8million.

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Peter Murphy, chief executive of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said the upgrades were needed.

He said: “These additional, fully staffed, beds will put us in a stronger position for the winter, which is always a challenging time for the trust, but particularly this year with the possibility of high numbers of swine flu cases.

“We struggled to cope at times in January and February of this year for a variety of reasons - some of which were out of our hands - but a key one was a lack of capacity at Colchester General Hospital.

“The new isolation unit and the extension to the stroke unit are both first-class facilities.

“It is a tribute to the commitment and professionalism of our staff that we have been able to open them in such a timely fashion.”

Equipment and furniture in the isolation unit cost �120,000 and is brand-new.

Bosses said yesterday that the new unit had been designed to be energy-efficient, making “optimum use of natural daylight to create a spacious, light and airy atmosphere”.

It is planned that the unit will be connected to a �20million two-storey ward block, which will be built between April and October next year.

The �1.4m extension to the stroke unit, which itself opened only five years ago, increases its total number of beds from 21 to 33 and eight of the beds will be for “hyper-acute” patients, with the remainder for those needing intensive rehabilitation.

The change means all of the hospital's beds for stroke patients are now concentrated in the same area whereas before eight were on the Peldon Ward, which is actually meant for use by elderly people.

Stroke Unit staff, such as nurses and occupational therapists, helped to design the extension with grab-rails supplied at locations and heights specific to the patients.

A spokesman for the trust said: “The �2.8m investment, which was completed both on schedule and to budget, is part of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust's plans to expand capacity and to improve facilities for patients.”

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