Whitby council backs WHAGS

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WHITBY Town Council gave its unanimous backing to an action group that is fighting tooth and nail to save Whitby Community Hospital.

At an extraordinary meeting on Monday, the councillors all voted to support the work of the Whitby Hospital Action Group (WHAG), which has fought for over a year to save the hospital, which faces an uncertain future.

During the highly-passionate meeting representatives from WHAG, including borough councillor Alf Abbott, explained their position and answered questions from the council and from members of the public.

All parties shared the same belief that for Whitby to avoid a “crisis” the hospital must be saved.

Coun Abbott said: “Scarborough and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust say there isn’t enough footfall there through the night, but we know that each year you can end up with a figure between 75,000 and a million, that’s the footfall coming into the area.

“In other parts of the world, if there were that many people in an area without a hospital, UNICEF would build one.

“Our Primary Care Trust (PCT) wants to eliminate ours because there isn’t enough use, so there’s the potential for a real crisis.”

Throughout the meeting people rose to their feet and gave examples of how the presence of Whitby Hospital had saved their life or the life of someone close to them.

WHAG’s Sarah Wyatt was such individual and she said: “Three years ago I had an exacerbation with asthma that nearly killed me.

“Being able to go to that hospital saved my life.

“WHAG is trying to push for a hospital facility which will give us minor injury car, palliative care, rehab and physio and as the GPs said, they would like to be there to offer heart attack and stroke treatment in the shortest time possible.

“The PCT has put this town at serious risk and we feel that we have been a pain in their medical backside.

“We will say to them ‘you must stop what you are doing to Whitby Hospital’.”

After hearing the presentation from WHAG, Coun Niall Carson spoke for the entire council when he said: “I’m very impressed at what the WHAG has achieved already and we will offer our support however we can.”

Topics for discussion included ownership of Whitby Hospital transferring to York foundation trust when the PCTs are abolished in 18 months’ time and a discussion regarding a “phantom” pledge to improve and maintain the operating theatres, which did not materialise.

The closure of the hospital at evenings also proved a contentious issue.

“Our minor injuries unit should be open 24 hours a day,” said Coun Sean Rixham-Smith.

“The unit is shutting at 9pm on weekends and it’s disgusting.

“Without that unit goodness only knows what would have happened to my daughter when she needed care a few years ago.

“There should be a doctor on call all the time.

“It’s disgusting, it really is.”

Members of the public also asked why doctors themselves were not present at the meeting, to which Mrs Wyatt replied: “The doctors can’t be here to respond because if they do they will lose their jobs – the PCT won’t tolerate the GPs standing out of line.

“The doctors have actually said to the PCT that ‘you don’t have our backing to do this.

“You don’t have our permission to shut wards and leave our most valuable patients to nurses’.”