Hospital campaigners take to the streets
PEOPLE of all ages took part in a protest march at the weekend to show their support for a closure-threatened community hospital.Led by members of the Gislingham Silver Band, the marchers set off from Hartismere Hospital at Eye on Saturday before arriving at the town hall where they heard impassioned pleas for the rural hospital should be kept open.
By David Lennard
PEOPLE of all ages took part in a protest march at the weekend to show their support for a closure-threatened community hospital.
Led by members of the Gislingham Silver Band, the marchers set off from Hartismere Hospital at Eye on Saturday before arriving at the town hall where they heard impassioned pleas for the rural hospital should be kept open.
Cash-strapped Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) is proposing to close the hospital and sell the site as a solution to its present financial crisis.
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But the idea of losing a much-loved community asset has upset people living in the rural area of north Suffolk and south Norfolk served by the hospital and in recent weeks the campaign to prevent closure has garnered huge support.
More than 2,000 letters opposing the closure have been sent to the PCT and on Saturday several hundred people took part in the protest march.
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Marchers carried placards calling on the PCT to think again and expressing their love for the small rural hospital.
Those taking part ranged from young children to pensioners such as 91-year-old Ella Ursell, of Harleston, a former patient of the hospital.
Chairman of the hospital's league of friends, Eric Havers, said he was delighted to see so many people taking part in the march.
"The very fact that so many people have turned up to show their support for the hospital should make the primary care trust rethink their closure plans," he said.
"We do not just want to save the hospital from closure but want to see the services provided here increased.
"I am issuing a challenge to the board of the PCT to sit and talk with all those of us that want to save this hospital so that we look at every available option."
Central Suffolk MP Sir Michael Lord also took part in the event and said he would be doing everything in his power to help keep the hospital open.
"This hospital cannot be allowed to close and the local community is coming together in a bid to keep it open," he said.
Sir Michael said he was upset by Government claims that they were putting more money than ever before into the health service while at the same time small hospitals were under threat of closure.
He added: "It is no good the Government saying they are putting this money in at the top end of the NHS if at the bottom health trusts are being forced to close small hospitals.
"The hospital here at Eye is under threat of closure, along with others across Suffolk, and the number of beds at Ipswich Hospital are also being reduced."
Mayor of Eye Simon Hooton was another local dignitary who took part in the march and said the whole community had come together to show their support for the hospital.
"There are people taking part in this march from all over north Suffolk and south Norfolk who rely on Hartismere Hospital," he said.
"If the hospital was to close patients would face long journeys to get treatment as we are at least 25 miles from the nearest major hospitals at Ipswich and Norwich."
Central Suffolk PCT is currently in the midst of a consultation period about the future of Hartismere Hospital but it is believed the site would be worth at least £4 million if it were to be closed and sold.