Summer of upheaval at Southwold Hospital

PATIENTS and staff at Southwold hospital are facing a month of upheaval after its in-patient ward was closed.

East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) has shut down the ward until the end of the summer holidays to redecorate part of the building and carry out staff training.

The move has caused disruption to some staff who have taken up positions at other hospitals in Waveney or gone on annual leave. However, ECCH said this week that 'fewer than five' in-patients had been moved from the hospital while work took place.

It has apologised for any inconvenience caused, saying it chose to close the ward when many beds were empty.

But question marks have been raised over the timing of the closure amid concerns that people were moved at short notice.

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Chris Banks, deputy managing director at ECCH, said: 'This time of year is relatively quiet and we have unoccupied beds in all our four community hospitals.

'We decided to use this as an opportunity to undertake a programme of staff training based at Southwold Hospital and carry out some redecorating while there are no inpatients in the building.

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'We are able to work flexibly and anticipate bringing the beds in Southwold back by the end of the summer holidays. During this time our staff are also either taking annual leave or being deployed to other units.

'We regret the temporary inconvenience this may cause some residents in the Southwold area, but we have beds available in nearby hospitals in Halesworth and Beccles, should they be needed.'

The 15-bed community hospital offers a range of in-patient and out-patient services for people requiring medical and nursing care or therapy. It has 13 registered nurses, nine healthcare assistants and three admin staff.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said: 'We're pleased to hear the ward closure at Southwold hospital is just a temporary measure. Clearly, moving patients and staff at short notice can lead to anxiety and uncertainty for all concerned.'

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said: 'We would be horrified if there was any suggestion that this was permanent and are pleased to hear it is only temporary for redecoration. At a public meeting, assurance was given that the in-patients would remain open for the foreseeable future.'

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