Private healthcare chief defends company over hospital bed closures
The boss of a private firm running Cornwall's community hospitals defended his company's record yesterday saying they were performing to contract despite dozens of bed closures.
Kevin Baber, chief executive of Peninsula Community Health (PCH), was appearing before Cornwall councillors after a staffing crisis forced the company to shut Poltair Hospital in Penzance for the fourth time since it took over.
The not-for-profit business admitted that more than 40 beds across the county remained closed.
Mr Baber rebuffed a councillor who accused PCH of being "not fit for purpose" and said a national recruitment drive was to be launched.
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He said: "After Cornwall Council and the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, we are the third largest employer in the county.
"Our turnover is about 12% which means that every year about 200-250 jobs need to be replaced.
He added that this figure had remained stable during his four years in Cornwall.
Mr Baber said that in the last week, PCH had recruited 16 new starters and 31 posts were at offer stage. He said 26 posts were currently being advertised and 20 posts were at the shortlist stage.
Mr Baber said the firm delivered valuable outpatient and minor injury facilities to over 100,000 patients every year.
Moreover, he said PCH was contracted on the basis of numbers of admissions rather than bed and was delivering the required levels of dignity, safety and patient care.
However, Mr Baber's assurances were not enough to quell discontent from the Health and Adults Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said he was deeply unhappy with PCH.
"I have talked to staff and morale is through the floor," he said.
"We have problems year after year after year.
"Something isn't right, something isn't functioning as well as it should be if we are losing so many staff – 12% is a huge amount.
"What are you doing wrong? Why are we seeing so many bed closures?"
Liberal Democrat Mario Fonk said he was worried bed closures at community hospitals would mean patients could not be discharged to them from the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
"I am very concerned about this and I am fearful that it could lead to bed-blocking," he said.
"When PCH took over we were told changes would be organisational only and not affect hospitals or beds. As I see it now, this has not been the case."
Labour councillor Jude Robinson said Cornwall's community hospitals were a "fantastic legacy".
He added: "It looks to me like we have lost beds year on year and at a time when we have an aging population and are trying to move them into the community."