SHOCKING blueprints reveal just how few wards are in use at the University Hospital of Hartlepool as fresh fears are raised over its future viability.
The plans show more than half of the wards in the main building at Holdforth Road stand empty, with concerned councillors set to go on a site visit to see the situation for themselves.
Documents presented to Hartlepool Borough Council also show several other vacant buildings, leading one senior councillor to hit out at the “slashing” of services.
Officials at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust which run the hospital, and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, say 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 Stockton site.
Prior to that, the A&E department had also been closed and transferred to Stockton – despite a huge public backlash to the plans.
Independent councillor Keith Fisher said: “People will be shocked by this. It clearly illustrates just how few wards are open in Hartlepool and this is not a chipping away of services – this is a slashing of services.”
The floor-by-floor blueprints were presented to the council’s audit and governance committee following a request by councillors.
Health chiefs have invited the committee to visit the hospital site, which is expected to take place within the next few weeks.
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.
Coun Fisher, who chairs the audit and governance committee, said: “We all know about the various services removed, but when you see it in black and white it really is horrendous and the public will be rightly upset by this.
“If it has been moved to Stockton it can be moved back, there is nothing that cannot be reversed.
“This is a real eye opener but I fear it will get to the point where the trust turns round and says it is not worth keeping open.
“This questions the whole viability of the site and the members are going on a site visit to see for themselves what the reality is”
In a letter to the committee, Lynne Hodgson, director of finance, information and technology, said: “Since October, the trust’s estates department has been working closely with the clinical service departments that remain on the Hartlepool site and the community services directorate to ensure that, for those services that will remain in Hartlepool, they are appropriately located to achieve efficient patient flows, appropriate adjacencies and to provide maximum utilisation and security across the site.
“The final stages of this configuration are now nearing completion, enabling the detailed floor plans to be finalised.”
Peter Mitchell, associate director of estates and facilities at the trust, added: “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.”
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.
At the time, the trust said it needed to centralise critical care in one place to meet new health standards and meet patients’ changing needs.
In February, the trust was granted fresh planning permission for the new £300m Wynyard hospital, despite funding not yet being in place.
The council had originally granted outline permission for the new hospital in October 2009 but a series of setbacks, including the withdrawal of Government funding, meant it expired last October.