Town demands answers over hospital plans

TOWN councillors are demanding health bosses attend an urgent showdown meeting to answer questions from a furious public over plans that could soon see a 68-bed hospital closed to inpatients.

TOWN councillors are demanding health bosses attend an urgent showdown meeting to answer questions from a furious public over plans that could soon see a 68-bed hospital closed to inpatients.

Sudbury councillors are calling for bosses from the West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust, the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) and the Strategic Health Authority to urgently attend a public meeting to answer questions over the possible closure of Walnuttree Hospital.

The demands where made last night during a heated town council meeting, which was attended by staff from the hospital and around 30 members of the public.

The hospital trust says it would be forced to close the hospital to inpatients if it fails an independent fire risk assessment due to be published at the end of the month.


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But last night councillors and members of the public labelled the trust's decision to use an independent body to carry out a fire risk assessment at the hospital as “suspicious.”

It was argued that the 186-year-old building has always needed a fire safety certificate and the risk has been deemed manageable up until now.

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The move has sparked concerns the fire risk is being used as an excuse to shut down the hospital to help the PCT reduce its multi-million pound debts - something which has been strenously denied by health bosses.

Councillors said they must fight to keep Walnutree open at least until Sudbury's long awaited new £20m hospital, which has been dogged by major delays due to the PCT's massive debts, is built.

Town and county councillor Nick Irwin said: “I find it strange they didn't trust the fire brigade to carry risk assessment and at what cost.

“I find it suspicious that with the PCT strapped for cash with debts of £4m it decides to pay an independent body to carry out the survey.

“We must fight to keep Walnuttree open until the new hospital is built.”

Fellow councillor Peter Beer added: “We want answers on why the trust is going for an independent body to do the fire risk.

“We have no trust left in the heath authority whatsoever; we feel this is really just the start of them closing the hospital down.”

Councillors were also fearful over the implications that the closure of the Walnuttree would have on health services in Sudbury and across west Suffolk.

They fear due to the debts of the PCT the promised new Sudbury hospital will never be built, and the prospect of losing another 68-beds would put other health services under enormous pressure.

Councillor Jack Owen said: “I believe that once these beds are lost before any future hospital is built we will never get them back.

Another councillor Nigel Bennett said: “We need to ask all the relevant health bosses to attend the meeting and we need to demand they come to answer all our questions.

“There has been no public consultation over this and we need to get this sorted out very quickly, if not this could all be over by Christmas and we could lose our beds for good.

“They may not like being asked difficult questions, but I am afraid that's what comes when you put yourself in a position to have to make difficult decisions.”

The council agreed to request an urgent showdown public meeting with the all of the relevant health officials.

It is hoped the meeting can be held by the end of next week.

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