HEALTH boss Julia Squire admitted more Pontefract patients than she “would like” are being transferred to Dewsbury and District Hospital for treatment.
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive said it had anticipated four or five extra patients a day from the district would be cared for in Dewsbury when its new £300m Pontefract and Wakefield hospitals opened – but an increase in demand for hospital care meant that figure was closer to eight or nine.
However, Ms Squire told the Express she was confident the trust would be able to keep its promise that nine out of ten patients previously treated at Pontefract would continue to be cared for in the new hospital.
She said: “We were at 86.2 per cent for the first two months of this year, but I’m confident that 90 per cent will be delivered in our first full year of operation.
“Every service we said we would provide at Pontefract is in and working.”
The trust chief said the Friarwood Road facility was set up to provide services like ambulatory care, short stay surgery and outpatients facilities – but more serious surgical cases were always going to be dealt with at the trust’s other hospitals.
It was hoped that any seriously-ill patients admitted to Pontefract would be treated at Pinderfields, but the Wakefield site had been struggling to cope with higher patient numbers than expected.
Ms Squire said the general demand for hospital care in the area was increasing by five per cent year on year – and last year the trust’s accident and emergency departments treated 200,000 patients for the first time. Last month the trust announced it would provide 76 new beds at Dewsbury to cope with the the extra demand.
Ms Squire said: “I know it’s not ideal for Pontefract patients to be cared for at Dewsbury, but we have to cope with this massive demand and deal with it safely.
“There are more patients than we would like going from Pontefract to Dewsbury. In an ideal world we would have the right number of beds in Pinderfields.
“We are trying to make sure the patients that go to Dewsbury live as near to Dewsbury as possible. That’s not always happening at the moment because of the demand we’re seeing.
“When we get the extra beds, the people closest to Pontefract will be treated at Pinderfields.”
Ms Squire said there were currently no plans to increase bed numbers at Pontefract, but confirmed the trust had decided not to hand over part of its old building – the former elective treatment centre (ETC) – in case it was needed in the future.
She ruled out using it to provide beds for acutely-ill patients because the hospital had not been “set up” to offer that service.
The chief said: “Pontefract isn’t set up for that. It is set up for the vast majority of services – it was never intended that it would be used for acutely-ill patients.
“We have decided to hang on to the ETC until we have decided what we’re going to do in our next five-year plan. It would be crazy to take down something we might need.
“The site had previously been used for operations, but we have a beautiful new theatre in the new hospital – with more complicated surgery happening at Pinderfields.
“It would need quite a lot of capital investment to be used in the future. We won’t demolish it until we know if we still need it.”
Ms Squire urged residents visiting patients at the trust’s other hospitals to use a free shuttle bus between the sites.
She said: “It runs regularly between Pontefract, Pinderfields and Dewsbury and it’s free to use. At the moment there aren’t many people using it.”