Overnight closure begins at hospital

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital
Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

HOSPITAL bosses faced angry residents at a public meeting in Wakefield – just hours before Pontefract Hospital’s A&E department closed its doors overnight for the first time on Tuesday.

Chiefs from Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust spoke about the reasons behind the “temporary” closure between 10pm and 8am every night and separate plans to downgrade the unit to a minor injuries and illness unit at a Wakefield Local Involvement Network’s (LINk) monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Prof Tim Hendra, trust medical director, told the watchdog, which works to improve health services, that the temporary, urgent closure had been sparked because nine out of 23 emergency staff posts became unfilled on November 1.

He reaffirmed pledges that the unit would be reopened at the “first safe opportunity” if enough doctors could be appointed to “safely” staff the trust’s three A&E departments at Pontefract, Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital and Dewsbury and District Hospital.

Prof Hendra said the trust had sent 130,000 leaflets out across the Five Towns before the closure to explain how residents could access emergency treatment when the unit is closed at night.

Pontefract Coun Clive Tennant spoke of his late wife Hazel’s experience of Pinderfields accident and emergency department as the meeting was opened to questions from the public.

Last November, the Express reported how Mrs Tennant, 55, was left with a triple fracture in her cheekbone and a cut near her eyebrow after plunging down the stairs at home in the middle of the night.

She and her husband spoke of their fears for the Pontefract’s A&E department if it was to be axed, as recommended by the National Clinical Advisory Team. Mrs Tennant died in February after a short illness

Coun Tennant told the meeting: “It was like a cattle market. How on earth is Pinderfields going to cope on Friday and Saturday nights? We were promised a 24-hour consultant-led A&E and that promise has been broken.”

But Mr Hendra said the overnight closure of Pontefract A&E would not have gone ahead if the trust thought Pinderfields could not cope.