Poltair Hospital closure petition signed by thousands already
A HEALTH campaigner says he is delighted that a petition he has started to protest about the closure of Poltair Hospital has already been signed by more than 3,600 people.
For the past few weeks Richard Somerville has been a regular sight on the streets of Penzance in his high-visibility jacket collecting names on his petition, which criticises Peninsula Community Health (PCH) over the hospital's closure for the past 11 months.
"I think it's pretty impressive that so many people have signed the petition in just a few weeks," he said.
"I've lived in Penzance for two and a half years and as a former statistician specialising in the health field I've been very concerned at the way in which events seemed to have dragged on with regard to community health services, at Poltair in particular.
"They've already had two reviews about Poltair and now we're about to start the Poltair consultation, and I think PCH needs to be aware of the local feeling about the closure.
"I've been very encouraged by the reaction I've had from people and heard some wonderful stories from people about the care that their relatives have received at Poltair – and, to be fair, one or two bad experiences."
With his background in medical statistics, Mr Somerfield said, he has looked at the number of community beds in other parts of the county.
"Wherever you go in Cornwall where there's a large centre of population, from Bude down to Saltash and all the way west, every large town has a community hospital – why not Penzance?
"We now only have the Edward Hain Hospital in St Ives which has 12 beds for a population of about 70,000.
"It just doesn't seem right that the people of West Cornwall have to travel so far to be cared for in a community bed," he said.
West Cornwall MP Andrew George, who is also campaigning to get Poltair reopened as soon as possible, said he had received a letter from the new chief executive of PCH which stated that until the review was completed – which was not anticipated until early 2014 – "we will continue to provide community-based services only from Poltair Hospital".
Mr George said: "This contradicts what many have been told; that the review would not be used as an excuse simply to extend the closure of in-patient beds.
"Many of us are concerned that once these beds are lost they will be lost for ever, and the patients who need round-the-clock medical oversight will chance it at home.
"I welcome the opportunity for a thorough review and some proper planning of community services in the west, but this should not be used as an excuse to keep beds closed in this way."