STAMFORD Hospital’s last remaining in-patient ward has been closed and could stay shut for up to six months following an outbreak of a superbug.
The 24-bed John Van Geest unit, which mainly cares for elderly people, was closed to new admissions last week after four patients contracted clostridium difficile. a bacteria found in the gut which can cause diarrhoea and fever.
Hospital chiefs say a deep clean of the ward revealed the need for renovation and so it will be kept closed for between three and six months so that it can be refurbished.
Seven patients on the ward will remain there until they are discharged while all new patients will be transferred to Peterborough City Hospital. Three patients have been discharged since Friday. The ward’s 30 members of staff will be transferred to the city hospital.
Two months ago Stamford and Peterborough Hospitals Trust announced that it would be axing 300 jobs in a bid to cut costs. It opened the £289m Peterborough City Hospital in November but its debt could rise to be £38m by April, 2012.
The trust’s general manager for emergency, critical care and medicine Cara Charles-Barks said: “A working group has been established to determine the refurbishment requirement on the ward.
“The group will look at a number of work streams including staffing, equipment and supplies.
“We will also develop a model of care options for the future which will conclude how the ward can be best utilised to meet our patients’ needs.
“The trust is fully committed to ensuring that the ward achieves
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maximum benefit for our patients and the trust, going forward.”
The trust’s chief operating officer Rowena Barnes said it was assessing patients currently on the ward to determine their date of discharge.
“We aim to close the ward once these patients are discharged,” she said. “We will be assessing the extent of work required next week.
“There is no risk to the patients being treated on John Van Geest ward.
“Stamford Hospital staff are actively involved in the refurbishment programme so that we can ensure the unit continues to meets the needs of the patients cared for there.”
Stamford town councillor Maureen Jalili (LibDem) expressed concern about the situation. She said the unit, which opened in 1990, underwent some refurbishment work two years ago.
She said: “If the working party is going to bring back the Van Geest ward into full use as quickly as possible that is fair enough, but I would like reassurances that this is not a money saving exercise.
“The ward is important to Stamford people.
“It is the only in-patient facility at Stamford Hospital.
“We can’t afford to keep losing in-patient beds.”
Private cleaning and catering company ISS, which employs people on the ward, says it will hold talks with its staff.
Communications manager for ISS, Craig Smith said: “At this stage it is too early to say whether there will be any redundancies and we are seeking further clarification with the trust.
“When we have a full picture of what is happening we will be discussing it with staff.”