HEALTH chiefs met with the public this week to defend their controversial plans to replace acute emergency treatment with rehab facilities at Montagu Hospital.
The proposal by NHS Doncaster would see around 700 emergency patients a year being taken by ambulance to either Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Rotherham or Barnsley Hospitals - instead of Montagu.
The Mexborough hospital’s acute medical wards - used to treat severely ill patients - would then be closed and transformed into a state-of-the-art rehabilitation centre.
The move has been criticised by some, including two Mexborough councillors, as a way of “downgrading” Montagu Hospital.
But Dr Lis Rodgers, clinical advisor to NHS Doncaster, defended the plans at a public meeting at Mexborough Business Centre on Tuesday.
She said: “Some people will say they are chipping away at Montagu again, but those people do not see the same hospital that I see. Montagu is a thriving hospital.”
NHS Doncaster set out their plans in a 12 page document entitled ‘Moving with the Times’.
The proposals are to:-
*Convert the existing Wentworth, Adwick and Barnburgh Wards at Mexborough from acute medical care into a state-of-the-art rehabilitation unit
*Close three wards at Tickhill Road Hospital in Balby and relocate their services into the new rehab centre at Montagu
*Stop admitting patients to Montagu who need emergency medical admission by ‘blue light’ ambulance. They would instead be taken to DRI, Rotherham or Barnsley Hospitals.
*Patients needing rehabilitation - such as stroke victims - from across the Doncaster borough, would be treated at Montagu’s new rehab unit
*More day surgery to be undertaken at Montagu, and to increase the number of endoscopy procedures done.
During the consultation, Dr Rogers revealed that acute medical treatment is currently provided at Montagu because three consultant physicians have been based at the hospital.
But two of them are soon to retire and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) will not allow them to recruit replacement doctors to Montagu as it is deemed an ‘isolated medical unit’.
The RCP also state that acute medical patients should be treated in a facility where there is ‘full range of medical and surgical specialities’.
Dr Rodgers said DRI has these facilities, but Montagu does not.
She told the meeting: “This will leave us with bed stock at Montagu.
“Rather than leaving empty wards at Mexborough, we want to re-invest and refurbish it so we have a thriving rehabilitation centre for the future.”
Dr Rodgers revealed there are currently 76 hospital beds at Montagu, and this will be reduced to 58 under the proposals.
She explained this is because certain rehab patients will not require beds.
There would also be more beds provided for at DRI as a result of the change.
Dr Rodgers said the overall aim of having a centralised rehab centre was to reduce the amount of time patients spend in hospital.
She said: “When we have had stroke patients if we keep them in hospital they lose confidence and mobility.
“This is why we want to take them off a busy acute ward and into a situation where we can help them get their confidence and mobility back so they can go home earlier.”
Dr Rodgers also explained the annual running costs of the Montagu rehab centre will be £4.9 million, and an application will be made to use some of the Fred and Ann Green Legacy funds.
NHS Doncaster will also invest £1.4 million in such areas as home support services, increasing the number of community nurses and other health care professionals.
There will also be a cash injection of £400,000 to help patients on the road to recovery, £300, 000 will be put into community stroke services and £500, 000 in other services and palliative care.
Care staff currently based at Montagu will be offered re-training as part of the proposals.
After the meeting, Mexborough councillor Sue Phillips said she was in favour of the plans, but added: “We must never take our eye off the ball.
“We need to make sure this new rehabilitation centre is going to be what they say it is and not something else.”
Another public meeting is planned to take place in Mexborough over the coming weeks, and there will also be one at the Ivanhoe Centre in Conisbrough on December 6 from 7-9pm.
Board members of the NHS South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw cluster will then meet to decide if the proposals should go ahead in early 2012.