Residents vow to fight hospital closure
By David GreenCAMPAIGNERS trying to save a rural hospital have urged residents to attend a crucial meeting of health bosses tomorrow.Members of the board the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust have been recommended by senior officers to approve the closure of the 45-bed Hartismere Hospital in Eye by the end of March.
By David Green
CAMPAIGNERS trying to save a rural hospital have urged residents to attend a crucial meeting of health bosses tomorrow.
Members of the board the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust have been recommended by senior officers to approve the closure of the 45-bed Hartismere Hospital in Eye by the end of March.
The plan would involve the relocation of a small number of outpatient facilities based at the nearby Gilchrist birthing unit and the development there of additional "care in the community" services.
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But the proposal has angered many residents, including Central Suffolk MP Sir Michael Lord, and the hospital's League of Friends is spearheading a campaign to scupper the plan, at least until proper public consultations have been held.
Jacqui Hughes, League of Friends secretary, said: "We must fight on and our first opportunity is this board meeting. We desperately need people to attend this meeting."
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In conjunction with the Friends organisation, Eye Women's Institute is organising a coach to take concerned members of the public to the trust meeting, being held at Hadleigh Health Centre at 2pm tomorrow.
Iris Overall, Eye WI president, said: "It started out as a minibus, but the response from other local WIs has been enthusiastic and we are hoping that there will be enough people to fill a coach."
She felt it was important for there to be a local presence at the meeting, although it was uncertain whether people would be able to speak.
Garry Deeks, a member of the trust's public involvement forum, said he was concerned at the lack of a "transparent" consultation process over the proposed closure.
"We are very worried about the pace at which this is going. We may organise our own public meeting based on the local health communities," he said.
Sara Michell, district councillor for villagers near Eye, said she felt the method of consultation with the community so far had been "less than fair" and added: "Hartismere is a brilliant hospital. It would be a tragedy to lose it."
Miriam Whant, a former mayor of Eye, said the behaviour of the trust was "absolutely appalling".
She added: "They have been going through the motions of consultation, but it is clear the outcome is a foregone conclusion."
The trust said it was having to bring forward the proposed changes more quickly than originally proposed to tackle its £2.9million deficit. It has pledged to fulfil its legal duty to consult the public before a final decision is made.