"Closures by the backdoor… again!" says Rochdale MP

January 16, 2008 12:00 AM

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen has criticised local health bosses following their decision not to provide alternative accomodation at Rochdale Infirmary to replace the closed Stonehill wards. Stonehill was closed last year after fire officers expressed concerns about its fire worthiness. Most beds were transfered to Fairfield, Bury. The Friends of Rochdale Hospitals led by Father Arthur Nearey had suggested reopening the former Watson, Holden and Healey wards. However, in a report considered by the Pennine Acute Board, they have claimed that it will take too long and cost too much. This will lead to some local people having to travel on as many as three buses to see their loved ones in Fairfield.

Paul Rowen said: "I am shocked at health bosses total disregard for the recommendations made by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. This stated that until all alternative arrangements were in place before enforced changes there would be no loss of services - this includes transport arrangements. We have here closures by the back door and I don't believe the figures for the changes, nor do I believe their timescales. I will be raising this issue with the Healthcare Commission and am asking them to take firm action.

"The net result of these changes will be that elderly patients will be inevitably affected. Take for example, people from Shawclough who want to visit relatives. They will have to travel on a bus into our Town Centre, another bus out to Bury and another to Fairfield. This is a potential nightmare for many people in Rochdale and the fact is that we are suffering some of the realities of the future without the arrangements in place. This is a scandal and I will be making firm representations. Health bosses are using their future plans to close services and the fact of the matter is that it was their incompetence over Fire Regulations that has led to this."

At a meeting in November, the Board agreed that actions would be taken to remove inpatient ward accommodation from the first and second floors of the Stonehill Block and that this activity would in part be transferred to Fairfield Hospital with the remainder being absorbed on the Rochdale Infirmary site.

John Wilkes, Director of Facilities, said in the conclusion to his report: "Bearing in mind the significant issues associated with conversion of this office accommodation and the short timescales associated with the life of the investment, it is recommended to the Trust Board that we do not proceed with the conversion of office accommodation to ward accommodation on the Rochdale Infirmary site."