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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 07:38 GMT
Era ends for Polish war hospital
Penley Hospital
Over 2000 staff and patients lived at the hospital site
A hospital which has treated Polish veterans since the end of the Second World War closes its doors on Tuesday as plans to rebuild the site get under way.

Penley Hospital near Wrexham has cared for ex-serviceman and their families since it became the UK home of the Polish Army hospital in 1946.

When we came it wasn't as nice as it is now, it was a derelict place everything was in pieces

Former nurse Irena Shendarovich

At its peak over 2,000 patients and staff lived at the site which treated people injured in the conflict and helped them resettle in the surrounding communities.

However, the unit has since dwindled in size and currently only houses six patients.

North East Wales NHS Trust plans to demolish the outdated buildings and construct a 620,000 new premises.

Andy Scotson from the trust said: "The accommodation is old and has been ready for replacement for sometime.

"Vandalism, arson and buildings being used by drug abusers on the abandoned sites have raised concerns about safety for staff."

Penley Hospital
Most of the site is now disused

The original site was initially occupied during the Second World War by the US Army before it became a Polish Military Hospital.

After the war, it was used to treat Polish war pensioners, ex-servicemen and their families who did not speak enough English to be treated in other UK hospitals.

Irena Shendarovich, a nurse at the hospital from 1946 until 1982, said the site was in need of repair when they arrived.

"When we came it wasn't as nice as it is now, it was a derelict place everything was in pieces," she said.

"But we managed all those years ago to organise our lives properly and to serve the patients."

The new facility will provide patients with individual rooms with much greater privacy and dignity

Andy Scotson North East Wales NHS Trust

Due to the increasing age of the war veterans, patient numbers at the hospital have declined.

Only one ward out of the original 30 is still in use.

Needles and syringes dropped by drug users have been found in empty huts and staff have said they feel vulnerable, due to increased vandalism.

Mr Scotson added: "We would need to spend around 250,000 to maintain the current services at the site."

"The new facility will provide patients with individual rooms with much greater privacy and dignity and a more comfortable environment for their long-term care."

The trust now plans to build a single-storey unit with bungalow-style accommodation.

While it is being built, Penley staff and patients will be transferred to Meadowslea Hospital on Deeside.

The new hospital is expected to take around 18 months to build.

BBC Wales's Matthew Richards
"As the years rolled on, those young men that first came here with war wounds were being treated for the effects of old age."

More news from north east Wales
See also:

11 Nov 01 | UK
Britain honours war dead
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