End of era as hospital faces axe

ONE of the long-lasting Christmas traditions almost certainly came to an end yesterday when staff and patients at the closure-threatened Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe were visited by the town's mayor.

ONE of the long-lasting Christmas traditions almost certainly came to an end yesterday when staff and patients at the closure-threatened Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe were visited by the town's mayor.

Cyril Webb and his wife Jean paid tribute to the hard working staff and they admired the Christmas decorations and the wonderful views over the North Sea for the patients as they toured the hospital.

The short visit, which is sandwiched among many visits on Christmas Day to elderly people and the emergency services, was tinged with sadness for everyone.

The hospital is earmarked for closure to help the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts pay off crippling debts. The aim is to sell the hospital and annexe, with the building and site having enormous potential for apartments.


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Health services will be concentrated at the Felixstowe General Hospital where hundreds of thousands of pounds will be spent on upgrading the facilities. A final decision is due to be taken on January 25.

The hospital has capacity for 56 beds and provides intermediate care and rehabilitation for patients, but one of the two wards has already been closed as part of the cut-backs.

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This was the third time that Mr Webb has visited the hospital as mayor at Christmas in more than 20 years and he said: ''This is a very poignant visit under the circumstances.''

Liz Butcher, one of the ward sisters, has worked at the town's two hospitals for more than 20 years and it was her sixth consecutive Christmas on the wards.

She said: ''I like working with the girls and making the Christmas for the patients. They are stuck in hospital and we try and make it enjoyable for them.

''Everybody is devastated by the closure. The hospital is part of our lives and for Felixstowe to lose a hospital it will affect a lot of Felixstowe people.''

Violet Sparrow, 90, of Ataka Road, Felixstowe, was among the 25 patients celebrating Christmas in the hospital. She said: ''The closure is awful, dreadful. I could not wish for better treatment here in all ways.''

Among her visitors was her son Neil Sparrow, of Kesgrave, and he said: ''It is dreadful, I just cannot believe that they can even consider closing the hospital. These people cannot go back in the community - the staff here are brilliant and you just cannot get that quality of service in the private sector.''

The hospital was built in 1926 on the site of the former Bath Hotel, burned down by Suffragettes in 1914. The hospital's foundations include the remains of one of the seven 18th century Martello towers which protected the coastline from Napoleonic invaders.

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