HEALTH bosses today said they haven’t answered any questions put forward by angry residents after the closure of A&E – because red-faced council chiefs hadn’t sent them.
A series of written concerns were handed in at a public meeting after health bosses refused to attend to hear grievances over the University Hospital of Hartlepool fiasco.
But when questions were raised as to why trust bosses had not responded, it emerged that the dozens of forms were only put in the post yesterday after an “administration error”.
The embarrassing gaffe came hours after councillors met face-to-face with health chiefs in Whitehall in a plea for intervention – only to again be told the issues should be dealt with as a “local matter”.
Save our Hospital campaigner Keith Fisher, who backed a motion to have a vote of no confidence in trust bosses put forward by councillors, said: “It’s a joke. Perhaps we should reconsider who we have no confidence in.”
At a full meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council on Thursday, concerned councillors asked why questions had not yet been answered following the controversial closure of the accident and emergency department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
As previously reported in the Hartlepool Mail, bosses from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust refused to attend an extraordinary meeting held at Hartlepool College of Further Education a month ago after claiming feelings were running so high that it would be a “modern-day version of the stocks”.
They agreed to answer questions from the public if they were put forward in written form and documents were handed out among the 250-strong crowd to allow them to write down their views with the promise they would be passed on to the trust.
But it emerged yesterday that the documents had never actually been sent out from the civic centre and they were quickly parcelled up and sent to the trust by first-class post.
At the council meeting on Thursday, Labour councillor Rob Cook accused the trust of treating the people of Hartlepool with “contempt” and said: “The amount of questions that were put forward to them was phenomenal.
“To have no response after four weeks is disgusting.”
But after being told of the administration mix-up by the Mail yesterday, he said: “For this to happen is an embarrassment, I’m gobsmacked by it.
“What makes it worse is the fact the issue is so contentious.
“Everybody makes mistakes, but I’m sure whoever has made this error will be dealt with accordingly.
“We are talking about a pile of questions here, a considerable number, not just a couple of bits of paper.”
Keith Fisher added: “It is unforgivable.
“It was appropriate that people had the chance to put their questions to the trust and they took the time and came out in their numbers to do that.
“The whole thing is disgraceful, but I’m afraid it is probably typical of the civic centre for this to happen.
“In general, they are our representatives, they are our conduit in situations like this.
“They put forward the vote of no confidence and said they would take it forward.
“That hasn’t happened and this error adds to that.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Edna Wright, a long-supporting campaigner to keep hospital services in town, added: “I think that is totally disgraceful.
“I am astounded to hear that, it makes the whole exercise a waste of time.
“It stands to reason that we haven’t had answers if they haven’t had the questions in the first place.”
A spokeswoman for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust said: “It sounds like there has been some confusion over the questions which is unfortunate because we would very much welcome the opportunity to respond.
“We look forward to receiving them.”
A council spokesman said: “Following the comments raised at Thursday night’s meeting of the full council, we discovered that due to an administrative error the questions unfortunately had not been forwarded on to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
“We apologise unreservedly for this mistake and we can confirm that we have now forwarded the questions on to the trust.”