CAMPAIGNERS say the decision to close the University Hospital of Hartlepool’s A&E department could cost lives.
Health chiefs announced yesterday that the accident and emergency department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in Holdforth Road, will be shut down on August 2.
After hearing of the closure, Keith Fisher, chairman of the Save Our Hospital campaign which has battled against the stripping of health services from Hartlepool, said: “There’s absolutely no doubt that somebody in Hartlepool will lose their life as a result of closing Hartlepool hospital’s accident and emergency department.
“I’m not a medical person, but it doesn’t take a lot to work out that the sooner you get medical treatment after a serious accident, the better chance you’ve got.
“The first hour after an accident is what the medical profession call the ‘golden hour’ and if you have to travel to the next town to be seen, you’re eating into that hour and reducing your chances.
“It is an absolute outrage.”
Geoff Lilley, a Save Our Hospital campaigner, said the decision was “political naivety”.
He added: “This is criminal and goes against a petition from 30,000 people. It is removing a service that will have significant, tragic consequences.”
“What are people going to do if they wake up in the middle of the night with a child with a very high temperature?
“It’s happened to my granddaughter before and we took her to the accident and emergency department in Hartlepool which was five minutes away.
“That was because we were lucky enough to have a car or were able to afford a taxi.
“People in a similar situation could now have to travel to a hospital in a different town, a place that’s inaccessible to many people here.”
The move to axe the town’s accident and emergency department means that anyone needing urgent medical treatment in the town, or east Durham, will have to go to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
For less serious conditions, patients will access the GP and nurse-led One Life Centre, in Park Road, Hartlepool, from 8am to 8pm seven days a week.
The decision was rubber-stamped by bosses at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust after an independent review into the department’s facilities ruled it as being “unfit for purpose” back in March.
Medical director for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust,
David Emerton, said adults and children who are seriously injured have been taken to either the University Hospital of North Tees, the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, or even Newcastle since 2007.
He added: “These days people’s chances of surviving a serious illness or injury are greatly improved. Ambulance paramedics now assess and stabilise the patient at the scene. They also call ahead to the receiving hospital so they can prepare for the casualty arriving.
“When the changes are put into place the important thing for people to remember is that if they think someone is ill or injured enough to need an ambulance they should phone 999 and not risk putting a patient in a car and perhaps taking them to the wrong place.
“It’s understandable that people do not like change. But to further improve the quality of care and to save more lives, it’s necessary to rearrange services in this way.
“People are, thankfully, living longer. But with changing health problems the health service must respond to the changing needs of the population.”