Published: 00:01, 23 February 2017
Staff at Kent and Canterbury’s urgent care centre have been told the unit will close this spring – potentially signalling the end of its life as an acute hospital.
Our sister paper the Kentish Gazette has been inundated with reports of senior managers holding meetings with staff to ascertain whether they would like to be moved to hospitals at Ashford or Margate.
Despite repeated requests to the east Kent hospitals trust to answer questions about the urgent care centre’s (UCC) fate, it yesterday refused to provide a definite answer.
The urgent care centre treats patients with acute medical illnesses, such as heart attacks or strokes.
It is separate from the hospital’s minor injuries unit, which deals with fractures, sprains and similar complaints.
One member of staff told the Gazette: “Morale here is absolutely awful and we feel we are not being given the whole truth by management.
“Officially the closure is being spoken of as temporary, but this seems to be a sneaky management move to begin the closure of K&C as an acute hospital.
“For patients this means even longer waiting time in A&E, either at Ashford or Thanet.”
Changes to hospital services are being carried out amid a chaotic winter period which has seen patients lying on beds in corridors and the trust regularly breaches the four-hour target for waiting times.
“Morale here is absolutely awful and we feel we are not being given the whole truth by management... This seems to be a sneaky move to begin the closure of K&C as an acute hospital" - staff nurse
Asked whether the UCC will shut, trust spokesman Gemma Shillito said: “The trust routinely prepares possible business continuity responses should an issue arise that could affect our ability to provide services, for example ensuring we have sufficient workforce, so we can address any emerging issues.”
Due to a lack of resources and the pressure placed upon them, staff have also complained they have had to work 12-hour shifts without a break.
The trust accepted it had faced a busy winter.
It said: “It is important staff do not work excessively long hours. During the periods of significant demand on services, the trust reminded staff and managers to try to make sure every member of staff has adequate breaks.”
The trust was also asked this week whether the UCC was adequately staffed with consultants and exactly how many should be on duty to ensure meeting the minimum requirement.
It replied: “Patients who need consultant review are seen by the medical and health care of the elderly consultants on duty at the hospital, who cover all the medical services provided at the hospital – one per speciality.”
A nurse who works at the hospital added: “If the trust claims that it isn’t closing the urgent care centre, then it is quite simply talking rubbish.”