Campaigners demand action as hospital closes
Health campaigners are calling for a private firm's contract to run community health services in Cornwall to be cancelled after a cottage hospital was closed for the fourth time in a year.
Peninsula Community Health (PCH) has blamed a staffing crisis on its decision to shut in-patient services at Poltair Hospital, near Penzance, one of the 14 community units in its portfolio in Cornwall. The private, not-for-profit enterprise was awarded the four and half year contract to run community health in Cornwall just one year ago.
Joe McKenna, chairman of the group Health Initiative Cornwall, said it simply wasn't good enough. His group has now written to NHS Cornwall, which commissions the PCH, and to the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, calling for action.
Mr McKenna said serious questions must be asked of PCH's ability to deliver.
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"While one might have forgiven the odd blip as PCH took over, we must now accept that what we are witnessing is widespread gross failure, on a repetitive basis. The question that now arises is whether PCH, as an organisation, is fit and proper to run our vitally important adult community health services."
St Ives MP Andrew George, a member of the Health Select Committee, said local people were concerned about the long-term plans. "If PCH plan to rationalise, they need to be transparent about it.
"But if not, to perpetually have staffing issues suggests management is very poor."
PCH chief executive Kevin Baber conceded that closing Poltair and redeploying staff to fill gaps at Edward Hain Hospital in St Ives and Helston Hospital, was "worrying."
"We are one (year old) this week and it has not been the greatest week.
"We have functioned very successfully (this year) but clearly this action to close Poltair is disappointing."
Within a week of PCH taking over community health last October, Poltair had closed to in-patients. It closed again in December and again in February this year.
Mr Baber said staffing issues were nothing new: "I have worked in community health for four years and there have been times when we have been short of staff and had to close beds to allow us to reach a safe minimum of staffing."
It is expected in-patients will not be readmitted to Poltair for at least three months.