Who remembers when this Hartlepool maternity hospital closed?

Grantully Hospital which faced closure in 1976.
Grantully Hospital which faced closure in 1976.

Two people may not realise it but they were history makers in Hartlepool 40 years ago.

One was the last to be born at one hospital in the town.

Barbara Jones and her daughter Donna.

Barbara Jones and her daughter Donna.

The other was the first to be born in the ward that replaced it at another hospital.

Chris Cordner looks back on a day of mixed emotions.

It was October 1976 and Mark Anthony Ray gained the distinction of being the last baby to be delivered at the Grantully Hospital in Hartlepool.

While it was a day of joy for his mum Christine, 21, it was sad for the ward sister who had watched an era come to a close.

Grantully has been open for 54 years and it has a warm place in the hearts of many women. We do not get any feeling of satisfaction or pleasure in closing it

Dr HC Milligan, community health physician

Meanwhile, in another part of Hartlepool, Donna Jones had become the first arrival at the new Grantully ward at Cameron Hospital.

At around the same time, the closure of Grantully was on the agenda at the District Community Health Council.

Malcolm Cairns, the hospital district administrator, told why Grantully was going to have to close forever.

And if anyone was going to come up with a reason for it staying open, they would have to find another way of saving £70,000 a year, he said.

Three months of talks had led to this point and Mr Cairns pointed out that Hartlepool’s hospitals were overspending at a rate of £100,000 a year.

At the same time, Grantully was not being used enough and if that was not enough of an argument, Cameron Hospital had a four-bed unit available as well as an extra four beds which could be called upon if needed.

Grantully may have closed but the staff had plenty to keep them busy.

The 17 nursing staff were transferred to Camerons and Miss E Hall, the senior nursing officer for the town, said they were all needed to fill urgent vacancies.

Grantully, she said, had had to keep on five midwives for a 24 hour service even though less than four babies a week were being born in the hospital.

Alternative uses for the under-threat hospital were suggested such as it becoming a specialist centre.

Dr John Crabb, the chairman of the Hartlepool General Practitioners Committee, suggested it should be used by the elderly when their relatives went away on holiday.

He had organised a petition to save the hospital from closure and gathered 4,234 signatures. He said it represented 43 per cent of women of a child-bearing age in Hartlepool.

But Mr Cairns said Hartlepool could ill afford to keep the service at a time when it was having to cut back. He also questioned whether all of the people who signed could be of childbearing age.

Were you born at Grantully, or had a child there? Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.