THE Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) was last night labelled a “disgrace” after it removed flowers and messages left outisde Flint Community Hospital in memory of loved ones.
As part of a protest on Monday night over the closure of Flint Hospital, members of the Flint Hospital Campaign Group pinned messages to a fence outside the closed facility.
Organisers said the fence would become a ‘living message board’ for the protest, and included messages in memory of loved ones who died in the hospital.
But yesterday – just 12 hours after the messages were put up – BCUHB removed the messages and flowers from the fence.
BCUHB confirmed banners and cards were taken down from the fencing outside the hospital by its staff. It said some messages named third parties and it felt it was “inappropriate” to have them on display at the site.
But residents and community leaders have described the health board’s actions as “heartless”, “despicable” and an “absolute disgrace”.
Nigel Williams, whose mother and father spent their last days at Flint Hospital, said: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace.
“Why couldn’t they leave the cards there? There were a lot of deep and personal messages left there.”
His father Ray died in 2004 and was in Flint Hospital until the day before he died, when he was moved to Glan Clwyd Hospital.
His mother Ruby was moved to Flint Hospital in the last days of her life to be nearer close family members in Flint.
Nigel, who lives with his wife Sue in Northop, said: “It was great because we could all go there.
“My brother lives in Flint, my family were all Flint people and I think what has happened now is such a great shame.”
Rachel Venables, who left “personal messages” to remember her father Vernon Roberts and grandfather-in-law Ted Venables, who both spent time in Flint Hospital before they died, said it was “heart-wrenching” to see it had been removed.
“It was upsetting to see – I was distraught,” she said.
“A lot of people made a big effort and left heartfelt messages. It looks as if they have just been ripped off.
“It nearly made me cry.”
Residents have been campaigning for more than a year against the closure of the hospital,. which closed in August.
Flint Community Hospital Group chairman Mike Evans said: “The speed they’ve taken everything down is absolutely unbelievable.
“It wasn’t grafitti, it wasn’t vandalism, and people had put very personal messages with flowers and I would like to see what the health board have done with them.
“We wanted to post people’s views to the health board, but their reaction was to rip it down.”
Some campaigners pinned up messages on the gates calling for the return of the hospital services to the town – with messages telling health board officials to “hang their heads in shame”.
A health board spokesman said: “We can confirm the banners and cards were removed from security fencing outside Flint Community Hospital by our staff this morning.
“As some of these messages named third parties, we felt it was inappropriate to have these on display on the site.
“We have taken photographs of the messages to ensure each one will be logged, recorded and treated as formal feedback as part of the Flint Stakeholder Event.”
The spokesman said a further meeting would be held in November to discuss plans for a new primary resource centre, but said the purpose was not to revisit the decision to close the hospital.
They added: “The primary healthcare resource centre will bring primary care (GP) services together under one roof with community clinics, community dental services and space for voluntary and local authority services.
“Inpatient services for patients who need a community hospital bed, as well as the extended hours minor injuries services are available in Holywell Community Hospital.”
Mr Evans says the campaign group are “determined” to get Flint Hospital reopened and warned they are planning a mass protest before Christmas.