Call for council to debate hospital A&E closure

Protestors march against the closure
Protestors march against the closure

CALLS have been made for a council to hold an extraordinary meeting about the pending closure of a hospital A&E.

The University Hospital of Hartlepool’s emergency unit is set to close on Tuesday. This is despite a protest march held on Wednesday when 600 people took to the streets calling for the plans to be scrapped.

Disgruntled councillors are now calling for an extraordinary meeting of the town’s elected members in hope that the decision can be postponed.

But they have been told by fellow members who sat on the council’s health scrutiny forum that their 11th hour pleas are too late on safety grounds and they have had ample opportunity to put their views forward.

Liberal Democrat councillor for the Hart ward Edna Wright had vowed to resign if Hartlepool’s hospital does eventually close and said the shutting of A&E has left her “disillusioned” with local politics.

She has now sent an email to all elected members calling for a meeting, saying that it is “imperative” that a meeting is called.

She added: “This can’t just close without people being listened to. There are so many questions that need answers.”

Independent Greatham councillor Geoff Lilley has also called for the meeting but admitted that it is late in the day.

He said: “It will be a miracle if it doesn’t close but I believe the majority of people want to see the A&E stay and the priority must be that they get the full support of the council and a meeting has to be called.”

Independent councillor John Marshall even called for a public inquiry to be launched on the matter.

The St Hilda representative said: “Residents have been badly let down on this issue. I’m as guilty of that.

“The momentum must now be swift and clear, otherwise we will end up losing all of our services to Stockton.”

But Conservative Park councillor Ray Wells, who sits on the health scrutiny forum, said he has been told by health chiefs that even in the unlikely event that a meeting is held, it could not stop the closure as it is being made on safety grounds.

Coun Wells said: “I am utterly bewildered that councillors who know the constitution inside out have left it this late to call any kind of meeting in the full knowledge that it would be impossible under legislation.

“I have again been informed that the health trust intends to close the Hartlepool A&E service no matter what direction Hartlepool Borough Council may make.

“I find it utterly contemptible that certain independent councillors are using such an emotive issue for their own political gain.”

The A&E department was declared unfit for purpose after an independent review by health professionals, academics and councillors from the health scrutiny forum back in March.

The changes are part of the Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme being led by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Trust medical director David Emerton said the majority of patients would be treated at Hartlepool’s £20m One Life centre, in Park Road, after Tuesday.

He said plans were continuing and that the “change is still happening”.

Coun Wells added: “I would like to take this opportunity to ensure all residents of Hartlepool that as a health scrutiny member I will be doing everything in my power to ensure that the One Life centre is fit for purpose.

“Should I feel that this is not the case, then I will be referring the matter to the highest authority myself.”