CONCERNS and criticisms are mounting over the closure of a hospital ward.
Yesterday, the Leader reported the Gladstone Ward at Deeside Hospital had temporarily closed, the number of available beds falling from 52 to 24.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) said staffing pressures led to the closure, caused in part by restrictions on staff duties while an investigation into standards of care is carried out.
Several community leaders have raised concerns over the closure, fearing the effect on patient health.
In a statement, a spokesman for BCUHB said: “Deeside Hospital has been managing difficulties with staffing levels for a number of months. This has been caused by a combination of retirements, long-term sickness and a number of staff being on restricted duties while an investigation into standards of care is completed.
“Twelve beds had to be taken out of use over the Christmas period as it was not possible to ensure safe staffing numbers on every shift, even by trying to obtain bank and agency staff.”
The spokesman said staff pressures have come when emergency demand meant the hospital was looking after frail patients with complex needs.
He said: “On Friday we decided to concentrate all the available staff to work on one ward to make sure all shifts can be safely covered. This has meant the number of available beds in the hospital has temporarily been reduced to 24.
“While the Gladstone ward is closed, the opportunity is being taken to renew the flooring and carry out other refurbishment work that was due.
“This work could not be carried out while the area is in use so would have required the ward to be closed for a period anyway. The ward will re-open as soon as we have sufficient staff to ensure that all shifts can be covered safely across both wards.”
Cllr Carol Ellis, chairman of Flintshire Council’s social and health care overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I think we as community leaders aren’t getting the full story. I’ve no idea why there’s a shortage of staff.”
She said she was contacted by a relative of a patient at the hospital who was “really distressed”.
“She’s been present when nurses have been taking calls from Chester and Broadgreen in Liverpool trying to get patients into Deeside and they can’t,” she said.
“It’s a major crisis.”
Cllr Ellis said when the relative asked when the ward would re-open, staff said they did not expect it to be until after Easter.
Buckley councillor Dennis Hutchinson also expressed concern.
He said: “They are closing beds by stealth and that’s not acceptable. It is going to have a massive effect on people from the Deeside area – this is very much the thin edge of the wedge. They are putting members of the public at risk.”
According to Buckley councillor Ron Hampson, five members of staff had left the hospital recently. He said several staff members had contacted him to express serious concerns about the situation at the hospital.
“I have had representations with the staff and it is a staffing crisis,” he said.“Wrexham [Maelor Hospital] want to get people out of A and E but if the beds are closing it is going to be a crisis for the hospital, and for other hospitals like Mold.
The staff are in a terrible state and they want to have something said about it.”