Travellers could force hospital closure

By Roddy AshworthA HEALTH boss has warned a hospital may have to close after a group of travellers set up camp on land next to the site.Jane Griffiths said the travellers posed a risk to patients at St Michael's Hospital in Braintree, some of whom were terminally ill.

By Roddy Ashworth

A HEALTH boss has warned a hospital may have to close after a group of travellers set up camp on land next to the site.

Jane Griffiths said the travellers posed a risk to patients at St Michael's Hospital in Braintree, some of whom were terminally ill.

Mrs Griffiths, the hospital's healthcare director, said: “I am really desperate to get them off the site. They have been defecating outside the hospital entrance. There has been toilet paper everywhere.


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“They have got rights, but their rights are overriding the rights of my patients. Some have to get undressed for therapy and they are right outside the ward window.

“There are issues of hygiene, safety, ambulance access, the volume of traffic and noise. They had a generator outside the hospice.”

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The travellers arrived on Saturday and set up a camp of four caravans on land next to the Rayne Road hospital.

Mrs Griffiths said the camp was far too close to the hospital buildings and warned it may be necessary to close the site until the travellers had been moved on.

One of the travellers, who declined to be named, denied they had been defecating in hospital doorways and pointed out a toilet tent put up away from the ward.

“We will be here for two or three weeks. Unfortunately, if we don't help ourselves we don't get any help at all,” he said.

“We don't want to live this life anymore. What we need is a permanent place, but there aren't many and they are all full. Tell Tony Blair and the Government and get him to help.”

He added: “We do appreciate we are breaking the law, but we're breaking the law wherever we are, so what can we do?

“If someone came along and said there was a site we could go to, we would go to it. But no - if they could make us vanish into thin air, they would.”

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said there were two travellers' sites in the Braintree area, at Sandiacres and Ridgewell, but both were full.

“None of our sites have any spaces and we have had to close the waiting lists. It can take two years to get a site, the list is so long,” she added.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said it was powerless to intervene as trespass was a civil, not criminal, offence.

“I understand the hospital already has solicitors working on it, but until they commit a criminal offence it remains a civil issue,” she added.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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