More than 150 people in a crowded hall at Midhurst Methodist Church last night (Thursday, May 12) heard health officials pledge that if nursing staff could be found the town’s community hospital will reopen.
There was standing room only on Friday when Chairman of the Friends of the hospital George Marchand chaired the public meeting.
And Easebourne’s district councillor Francis Hobbs was given a guarantee the hospital would reopen if nurses could be recruited.
“You say there is no hidden agenda to close the hospital,” he told health officials, “the implication is that it’s a matter of staffing. In the event that we can find nurses to meet staffing levels do you guarantee to reopen the hospital?
“I would be stunned if we can’t find them from within our community of 6000 people.”
Clinical director of the West Sussex Coastal clinical commissioning group David Whitehead gave him a categorical: “Yes, I guarantee we will reopen, I pledge to do that.”
Health officials from the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (SCT) and the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) outlined the acute nursing staff shortage which had forced the temporary closure of the inpatient ward.
And now the Observer is joining forces with the SCT and the Friends to launch a campaign to recruit nurses from the Midhurst area.
Sue Marshall chief nurse at the SCT said only 21 of the 42 shifts every week at the hospital could be covered and it was closed because the staff shortage posed a patient safety risk.
She said many initiatives had been carried out to try and find nurses including international recruitment from Spain, Italy and Portugal as well as longer term educational schemes with students at Chichester University.
Clinical director of the CCG David Whitehead said: “We do not have a hidden agenda here, we do not want to see this hospital closed. We value the Midhurst Community Hospital as we value all our hospitals.”
He said the decision had been ‘very unfortunate’ but “a hospital with not enough nurses is not a safe place to look after elderly and vulnerable people.”
Medical director of the SCT Richard Quirk said: “We have struggled to get qualified nurses to come and work at Midhurst. It is a national problem - there is a nursing crisis.”
He said the SCT had been forced to fill many shifts with bank or agency nurses.
There was a crisis at Easter when it had to take ‘dramatic action’ and source staff from other specialities and move night nurses from Bognor.
But health officials were repeatedly told recruitment drives had to be carried out more locally as nurses did not want to travel long distances.
“This area is quite unique, it’s over the Downs - it’s like the Himalayas, you have to recruit locally in the Midhurst area,” said one nurse.
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