A CAMPAIGNING pensioner who lives in the shadow of One Life Hartlepool claims she has proof that the £20m centre was never given planning permission to be open 24/7.
Jean Kennedy, who lives in Waldon Street in Hartlepool, says the lives of her and fellow residents became “a nightmare” while the state-of-the-art centre was being constructed.
Mrs Kennedy, 72, regularly attended forums set up to keep residents updated on the progress of the building, and has kept minutes of those meetings for her own records.
As the Park Road-based centre prepares to take over accident and emergency cases from the University Hospital of Hartlepool next Tuesday, Mrs Kennedy has unearthed a document from February 2008 which informs residents that One Life would be open from 8am-10pm on weekdays, with 8am-2pm opening hours on Saturdays.
Planning applications published on Hartlepool Borough Council’s website make no reference to any opening hours restrictions. But bosses at NHS Hartlepool say the 8am-10pm restrictions refer to the pharmacy and health centre, and not to the minor injuries unit which was granted 24-hour opening.
Mrs Kennedy insists residents were told by health bosses and council representatives at the meetings that the hours would be restricted for the whole of the building.
From Tuesday, patients from Hartlepool and east Durham in need of emergency attention have been told they will be dealt with at One Life around-the-clock, with medics in Park Road then taking a decision on whether or not the individual can be treated at the centre or transferred to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
She said: “One Life was never built to be an A&E facility.
“If the current hospital is not fit for purpose, then I would say exactly the same about One Life if it is going to be a 24/7 operation.
“If this was a facility that was going to boost the town, then people could live with it.
“But in my opinion, it isn’t. It is going to cause no end of problems with traffic coming in and out at all hours.
“It will impact hugely on the people who live in the street. It is ironic to think that a health centre could actually end up having a negative impact on people’s lives.
“We went through hell when it was being built, but the general feeling is now that the worst is yet to come.”
Mrs Kennedy, who is vehemently against plans to shift any facilities from the Holdforth Road-based hospital, added: “I have kept the minutes from the residents meetings, which were attended by people from the council and the health trusts, and they clearly say the opening hours would be 8am-10pm on weekdays. They did not refer to which parts of the centre
“I truly believe we have been sold down the river, it was never, ever mentioned about bringing A&E services to One Life.
“The figures show that over a year, 40,000 people visit A&E at Hartlepool hospital, with 57,000 going to A&E at North Tees. How much traffic are the residents going to have to put up with when A&E moves to Park Road?”
A spokeswoman for NHS Hartlepool said: “Planning permission was received from Hartlepool Council on July 6, 2009.
“Those conditions stated the hours of opening for the pharmacy and health centre would be between 8am-10pm, with a 24-hour service for the minor injuries unit.”