A&E snub for £11m hospital

A HEALTH campaigner last night called for a 24-hour accident and emergency department to be included in plans for a new £11million community hospital in Essex.

By Juliette Maxam

A HEALTH campaigner last night called for a 24-hour accident and emergency department to be included in plans for a new £11million community hospital in Essex.

Vickie Williams, of the Tendring Health Action Group, made the plea at a public meeting in Harwich about the town's new Community Hospital and Health Clinic – due to open in 2005.

But the demand looks set to fall on deaf ears, after Tendring Primary Care Trust Chief Executive Paul Unsworth said an A&E unit at such a small hospital was not possible.

Mrs Williams, 59, was joined by others at the meeting – attended by about 70 people – in calling for a modern A&E department to be included. Currently, the plans include a 24-hour minor injuries unit.

She said: "I had a heart attack when I was 40. If it wasn't for the staff in the local hospital, I wouldn't have been here today. I know other people who have had heart attacks and gone to Colchester General Hospital and died.

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"An A&E Department should be available here 24-hours a day, seven days a week."

Mr Unsworth said the new hospital and clinic would include an expanded outpatients department, a diagnostic and treatment centre and improved physical therapy, occupational therapy and intermediate care.

There would also be dental services which are currently not available in Harwich to NHS patients.

The number of beds at the hospital would remain the same but would be used more effectively he said.

But Mr Unsworth added: "I know it's difficult for some people to accept, but the times when an A&E department could be supported by such a small population in such a hospital are over."

Modern casualty departments require major capital expenditure in order to provide modern, hi-tech medicine, he added.

He added that paramedics are increasingly able to provide treatment such as clot-busting drugs to heart attack patients so that people do not necessarily need to an A&E Department.

The new hospital and clinic is to be paid for by a private finance scheme called LIFT, which would see existing Tendring PCT land and buildings in the town handed over to a private company which would pay for the new hospital and clinic and lease them back to the Trust over 25 years.

Other concerns raised at the meeting included opposition to sell off part of the land at Harwich hospital for housing developments, a loss of the current hospital building which some people in the town are fond of and objections to the private finance scheme.

The Trust will announce the private partner in October and then a period of public consultation will take place.

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