Busy building better health care for town

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THIRTY years ago this week Mail readers were given a behind the scenes tour of an ambitious project busy turning Hartlepool’s General Hospital into a fully-fledged district hospital. ANDREW LEVETT looks back at “a healthy prognosis” for the town’s health care in 1984.

“WE are a small health district, but the hospital will certainly be comparable to others in the region,” Hartlepool Health District deputy administrator Mike Griffin told the Mail on March 7, 1984.

He was speaking of “Scheme 2”, a £4.8m extension of the town’s general hospital boasting accident and emergency, orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat unit and plastic surgery facilities.

Currently just a red brick shell of anonymous rooms and corridors, the new buildings were due to replace St Hilda’s Hospital, on the Headland, later in the year.

The move from St Hilda’s would take the total staff at the site to 326 but “it will probably be the turn of the century before a third and fourth phase complete what is envisaged as a fully fledged district hospital”.

Mail reporter Pat Gamble was impressed by the “intriguing auto valet” which she predicted would “cause some amusement among the female nursing staff”.

She wrote: “Gone are the traditional lockers. Instead they each have a credit style card with a number on it.

“This is inserted into a machine and – all being well – a uniform is instantly produced crisp and neat.”

Mr Griffin told the Mail: “I think the staff are looking forward to having a look at it.

“But they have a lot of feeling for St Hilda’s – they have grown attached to it.”

On a nearby plot several flats were being built for resident staff from St Hilda’s and an extension to the children’s ward in the first phase of the hospital – completed 13 years previously – was also planned, along with a new psychiatric unit.

There were three categories of accomodation – flats for married couples, flats with separate bedrooms and sitting rooms for relatively senior staff and student bed-sits with shared facilities.

Mr Griffin said Scheme 2 would cater for 140,000 people within the Hartlepool catchment area, which included Easington and South Peterlee, with “fingers crossed” for a July 21 moving date.

“We are planning to do the move of patients from St Hilda’s over one weekend. We’ll use a fleet of ambulances.”

Do you have any memories of the early days of Scheme 2 you would like to share with other readers?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.