Nurse shortage forces community hospital to close again

( A ward at a community hospital in Cornwall has been closed for the third time since it was transferred from the NHS to a private company.

The 10 beds at Poltair Hospital, in Madron, near Penzance, were shut on Tuesday and will remain closed for almost six weeks while long-running staffing shortages are addressed.

It is the third time the ward at Poltair has been closed because of shortages of fully qualified nursing staff since it, and 13 other hospitals in the county, were controversially taken out of the NHS in October and placed into the hands of a community interest company.

St Ives Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, who campaigned against the transfer, spoke to Kevin Baber, chief executive of Peninsula Community Health (PCH), yesterday morning.

Mr George said: “The point I made to him was clearly if he was trying to engender confidence in the local community that the company was up to the job then closing the hospital to overnight residential stays three times in the last five months wasn’t going to help.

“I also said that sickness, hiring, firing and the management of staff rotas is standard for any organisation of that size and present regular challenges which should not close the hospital down.

“Clearly this needs to be sorted if it is to reassure the local community that it should have taken on this important responsibility.”

PCH confirmed the ward would be closed until March 12.

In October, less than two weeks into the new arrangements, new admissions were suspended because of a lack of qualified staff and workers off sick. That was repeated in December.

In a statement yesterday the not-for-profit company said: “The difficult decision to close the ward was taken in the interest of patient safety and staff care. The temporary closure will enable us to reach a complete resolution to the staffing problems experienced at the hospital over recent months.

“By Monday, March 12, newly appointed nurses will have worked out their notice period with current employers and been inducted to Peninsula Community Health ready to receive patients onto the ward at Poltair.

“The remainder of the hospital continues to operate as normal with nine clinics open to out-patients.

“We want to assure patients with appointments at any one of our nine clinics that these services are not affected by the ward closure.”