COUNCILLORS have spoken of their dismay after visiting the University Hospital of Hartlepool to see for themselves just how few wards are in use.
While the Hartlepool councillors praised the staff and services that are still based at the Holdforth Road site, they described parts of the building as like a “ghost town”.
The site visit came about after major concerns were raised about the future viability of the site by Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee.
It came after plans from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, showed more than half of the wards stand empty and several other buildings are vacant.
Officials at the trust have previously said work is continuing to make the best use of the building, but the dramatic decline in the number of wards being used follows the move last October to transfer all emergency medical and critical care services to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
The committee is chaired by independent councillor Keith Fisher and he was accompanied by Conservative councillor Brenda Loynes and Labour councillors Jim Ainslie and Stephen Akers-Belcher.
Coun Fisher said: “My committee and I were there simply to witness first hand how much, or how little, of the actual floor area of the hospital was currently in use. It was just like the graphics we had been given, there was whole floors not in use and it was horrendous, but our visit was never intended as any form of inspection of the services still being provided at our fine hospital.
“Those working at Holdforth Road are still providing services of the highest possible star rating and thereby they will always enjoy my full support.”
Coun Fisher added that he was surprised just how good a condition the closed wards are in, adding a lot of effort has gone into ensuring they remain clean.
He added: “The standard was so high you could move the services back there tomorrow.”
Coun Akers-Belcher added: “For me it was very disappointing and very sad to see wards not being used and obsolete – it was like a ghost town in parts.
“To be honest it was quite infuriating that we had this space in our hospital.”
But he did add that the committee recognised there was still a lot of good work going on inside the hospital and improvements to make life easier for those patients using the services still there.
The move to centralise all emergency medical and critical care services cost £2.3m and affected 10,000 patients, with all emergency admissions going to North Tees, and four emergency medical wards closing at Hartlepool, with a total of 135 beds removed.
The floor-by-floor blueprints were presented to the council’s audit and governance committee following a request by councillors.
Speaking earlier this month, Peter Mitchell, associate director of estates and facilities at the trust, said: “Work is continuing to ensure we make best use of the buildings and space at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
“The plan is to bring in as many services as possible into the main block to improve security and quality.”
If the trust does finally secure the funding needed for the new state-of-the-art £300m hospital at Wynyard then that would replace both the Hartlepool and Stockton hospitals, but isn’t due to open until 2017 at the earliest.