TERMINALLY-ill patients are being moved out of a specialist unit to help tackle a staffing crisis at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Six people with life-limiting conditions are to be transferred from Jarrow’s Primrose Hill Hospital, a specialist palliative care facility, to ward 22 at the South Shields hospital.
Health bosses intend to close the Jarrow unit for an unspecified length of time so its 15 staff can be seconded to help cope with an increase in emergency admissions at the Harton Lane hospital.
That decision has angered Donna Watson as her mother, Christine Watson, 87, is one of the patients due to be relocated on Monday.
The pensioner, of Thomas Bell House in Simonside, Jarrow, suffers from acute heart failure and has only six to 12 months to live. She was taken into the district hospital at the end of December, then switched to Primrose Hill.
Mrs Watson said: “She was transferred to Primrose Hill to make her more comfortable, and now they are sending her back.
“She enjoys it there because it’s so quiet and peaceful, a bit like a country hospital. What is the point in sending her back? We’re worried about the impact this will have on her. She’s settled there and taking her back to the hospital could be very traumatic. That’s one of the reasons we haven’t told her yet.
“My belief is this is all about money. It would seem the people at Primrose Hill are not dying quickly enough. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s how I feel. They are seen as bed-blockers.
“This is a callous way to treat dying people. They say that this is a temporary move, but I can’t see it ever opening again.
“Why go to the expense of transferring patients in a fleet of ambulances to South Shields, and all the furniture and belongings, if it is only going to be temporary?
“We’ve had no consultation over this. I was just taken aside a week and a half ago and told this was happening. This was done just after they’d carried out a survey in which my mum said how much she loved the hospital and the staff.
“It’s all very strange, chaotic and underhand, in my opinion.”
District councillor Ken Stephenson, also expressed his concern.
Coun Stephenson, a member for Jarrow’s Primrose ward, said: “I’d heard a rumour that this was in the offing, and I’ll certainly raise any concerns that are brought to me.
“At the end of the day, it’s a decision for the relevant health authority, but I certainly have my own concerns over the impact on patients.”
Steve Jamieson, director of corporate services at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, pledged that the transferred patients, to be moved into side rooms on ward 22, will continue to receive the same level of care.
He said: “Primrose Hill Hospital is an end-of-life facility for patients from across South Tyneside. However, only a small proportion of the 16 beds there are currently occupied.
“In order to generate additional capacity in South Tyneside District Hospital, and to help us cope with the significant volumes of emergency admissions this winter, we plan to temporarily close the facility at Primrose Hill by transferring the small number of patients to the district hospital.
“We will amalgamate the staff from Primrose Hill with additional staff at the district hospital to enable us to open an additional 30-bed ward in response to the continuing, unprecedented demand on services.
“The level of care provided to those patients transferred will remain optimal in their time of need.”
Admissions are ‘at record high’
A HEALTH boss has defended the controversial decision to transfer patients from Jarrow’s Primrose Hill Hospital to South Shields.
Steve Williamson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer, says health staff are under intense pressure because of a sharp rise in emergency admissions at the borough’s district hospital.
He pledged that as soon as those “unprecedented pressures” had eased, Primrose Hill would reopen.
He said: “On some days in recent weeks, admissions into South Tyneside District Hospital have been 25 per cent higher than we would expect and many are complex, severe cases.
“We have a ward which is currently empty, and this will provide us with much-needed extra inpatient capacity as we deal with this situation.
“Trust staff from Primrose Hill Hospital in Jarrow will be temporarily relocated to the district hospital to help with the staffing of the ward.
“This will allow us to safely increase bed capacity and maintain our high standards of patient care by ensuring we have staff with the right skill mix.
“As soon as we feel the unprecedented pressures in the system have eased off, we will make a decision on the most suitable time to reopen Primrose Hill.”