THE AXE has finally fallen on the children’s ward at The Alexandra Hospital which closed its doors on Tuesday (September 6).
Campaigners, who have been desperately fighting to keep the unit open, have accused health bosses of ‘rushing the move through the back door’.
And Neal Stote, the chairman of Save the Alex, said concerns about children’s healthcare in the county were ‘greater than ever’, adding it was still unclear how families were going to get to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital if their children were unwell.
“We’re still not convinced the Worcestershire Royal will cope.
“If you haven’t got enough staff then you haven’t got enough staff.
“Working them to death in a larger unit will just put more pressure on an already stretched resource,” he added.
The campaign to prevent closures at The Alex has been going for more than ten years and in 2008 their protests ensured both the paediatrics and maternity units remained open after public consultation forced the Trust to leave them be.
But Mr Stote said this time around there had not been the same consultation and trust chiefs had attempted to centralise services without the public being given their say.
“For all the trust’s talk about the new services and investment in the Alex, the reality is Redditch and the north of Worcestershire has a younger population than the south so needs key services like maternity and paediatrics in an accessible location which they are being deprived of.”
However Trust chiefs have promised it is only those children who have a life threatening condition, need to stay overnight in hospital or need to see a specialist paediatrician, who will need to go to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
They added their consultants had been working additional hours to cover junior doctors whilst they tried to fill the posts which they were unable to do.
Dr Andrew Short, the trust’s Interim Chief Medical Officer and senior Consultant Paediatrician said: “This presents a significant issue for the trust in providing specialist paediatric doctor inpatient 24/7 cover on two sites.
“This has now reached a critical point and the Trust regrettably has to take the difficult decision to temporarily move to centralise inpatient paediatric beds on to one site at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.”
The Alex will continue to treat children with minor illnesses.
Dr Short added: “We have made sure we have enough beds on our dedicated specialist children’s ward at the Worcestershire Royal to ensure it meets the needs of the children of Worcestershire.
“This means we have the beds available for any child needing to stay in hospital overnight and transferred under this temporary arrangement.”