FURIOUS residents and MPs demanded answers from hospital bosses at a stormy public meeting about the night-time closure of Pontefract Hospital’s A&E unit.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has temporarily closed the Friarwood Road facility from 10pm to 8am every day due to “unsafe” staff shortages.
Hundreds of angry residents packed Pontefract Town Hall last Thursday to voice their concerns about the closure to Trust bosses, including chairman Ed Anderson and chief executive Julia Squire.
Veteran politician Lord Lofthouse, chairman of the Trust from 2002 to 2004, told the meeting: “We are here to protect the services of Pontefract, it’s blatant you are being controlled and there are great powers pulling the strings, please tell us what to do and then we can take some action to assist you.
“In 50 years I have never seen such strong feeling in one room as I have this evening. The people of Pontefract love the Pontefract hospital, and nothing that has been said tonight has convinced me there won’t be a due deterioration of services.”
Trust chiefs told the meeting there were nine vacancies out of 23 middle grade doctors’ posts across the three emergency departments at Pontefract, Pinderfields and Dewsbury hospitals, resulting in Pontefract A&E – which opened ten months ago – being closed overnight.
Pontefract was chosen for the temporary closure because it had the lowest number of patients attending at night out of the three hospitals.
Ms Squire said: “Extensive efforts have been made in trying to recruit middle grade doctors to fill the nine vacant posts.
“Pontefract was chosen because it had on average only 19 people attending at night and the other two sites have back-up diagnostics, acute and critical care. The shortage of staff left us no choice but to take urgent and immediate action.”
Yvette Cooper, MP for Pontefract, Castleford and Normanton, handed over a 6,000-signature petition against the closure. She said: “We were only given two to three weeks’ notice about the temporary closure which isn’t even enough time to look for an alternative.
“This meeting should have been held before the Trust decided to make the change. It is criminal to have no facility open at night.”
Residents raised concerns about how they would get back to Pontefract at night if they had to be treated in Wakefield and Ms Squire said the Trust would look at this.
Resident Tony Marr said: “It is about trust, competence and confidence in you, and this meeting has proved that the people of Pontefract have no confidence in you whatsoever.