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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 15:43 GMT
Hewitt says hospital to stay open
Patricia Hewitt
Unions welcomed Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt's comments
A hospital in Cornwall threatened with closure will not shut, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Speaking during a visit to Treliske, Patricia Hewitt said there were no official proposals to close St Michael's Hospital in Hayle.

It is among various cuts proposed by the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust to resolve a 31m projected deficit.

Mrs Hewitt also promised 17m in extra funding from the NHS in the South West to boost the trust.

She also said that plans for a new women's unit for Cornwall will now go ahead, replacing the existing Royal Alexandra Maternity Wing at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

The regional Strategic Health Authority had agreed to come up with the money to "support Cornwall while it gets itself back on track", she said.

''No threat'

Closure of the St Michael's Hospital was one of several options being considered to reduce the trust's debt.

Mrs Hewitt said on Tuesday there was no official proposal by the NHS in Cornwall to close St Michael's.

"I cannot believe that such a proposal ever would be made, and if it was made, I can't believe it would ever be accepted.

"I think it's a great pity if people have been led unnecessarily to fear for the future of their hospital when there is not such threat to it."

The move was welcomed as "great news" by campaigners.

Ideas being considered by the Trust include shutting down an emergency department at West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and cuts in wards and services at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

Acting Chief Executive Rob Pitcher said the money promised from elsewhere in the health service was unlikely to make much difference to the trust's huge budget shortfall.

He said Ms Hewitt's comments needed to be viewed in context and the trust would still need to save money.
The really important thing is to look to the future
Patricia Hewitt

He said: "It's effectively a loan and will have to replaced in the future."

More than 27,000 people marched through Hayle in August against planned cuts.

Kevin Bolt from Unison said the health secretary's remarks were "good news".

Mrs Hewitt was also meeting the Cornwall Partnership NHS trust and representatives of hospitals at Penzance and Hayle during her visit.

She said the trust's financial problems would not be solved overnight.

Meanwhile it was confirmed that the Pendarves Ward at the Royal Cornwall Hospital will close on 22 November.

The general surgery ward is among four that the hospital says will have to shut as part of restructuring plans to save money.

The other three wards affected have not been named.




SEE ALSO
MP angry at health minister visit
10 Nov 06 |  Cornwall
Hospital bosses plan 7m savings
07 Nov 06 |  Cornwall
Watchdog warns of ward closures
27 Oct 06 |  Cornwall
Hospital closure plan considered
12 Jul 06 |  Cornwall

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