Hospital 'will be rebuilt' says boss

RICHARD BATSON A hospital boss has pledged that the long-awaited rebuild of Cromer hospital will go ahead.


A hospital boss has pledged that the long-awaited rebuild of Cromer hospital will go ahead.

And he said an MRI scanner unit, which has stood unused at the site since it was built in the summer, will be operating by Christmas.

The good news came from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital chief executive Paul Forden.

Concern for the rebuild has been rising as the search for a site has taken longer than expected, and an organisational shake-up has thrust the project into a bigger regional health authority.

But Mr Forden said yesterday: "I guarantee Cromer hospital will be rebuilt."

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There was a "100pc commitment" from the N&N trust for the project. And the large legacy left by Sagle Bernstein towards the scheme meant there was less scope for the new strategic health authority to "get in the way", he added.

Rich widow Mrs Bernstein left £11m to the hospital in 2000 for "the improvement of general facilities" as a thank-you for the care given to her dying sister.

In February 2004, officials agreed to spend a large slice of the gift on a rebuild, which has been discussed for more than a decade. They allocated £4m to the rebuild and £4m towards equipping it.

But Mr Forden warned that "some things at Cromer will have to change" to reflect the way "medicine is changing all the time".

It echoes the project already being flagged up as not having any "acute" beds, with that type of more major surgical work going to the N&N, and Cromer left to concentrate on doing more and more day surgery cases.

There are already plans to axe the current dozen acute beds from the existing hospital, along with a cancer clinic. The moves have already sparked local concern, with Mr Forden and his chairman David Prior due to come to Cromer in October or November to be quizzed at a public meeting.

However, Mr Forden had welcome news about another new facility at the existing hospital.

A MRI diagnostic scanner was completed in the summer, alongside a new kidney dialysis unit. While patients are using the dialysis stations, saving them three round trips to Norwich a week, the MRI scanner has lain unused because of problems funding its operation.

But Mr Forden said the N&N had now found some money in its scanning budget and would be operating the unit before Christmas. They were still recruiting radiography staff, but there were also plans to use staff from Norwich if necessary.

Building the unit when there was no definite funding to run it had been a "gamble", he admitted, but it was a better option than decommissioning the scanner when it was no longer needed at Norwich, or relocating it elsewhere in the city, which would not achieve the aim of taking the service closer to people in north Norfolk.

He assured the long-term runn-ing of the unit was sustainable.