Around fifty people, representing three different local groups, a local councillor, the local newspaper and many ordinary local people discussed the loss of services at West Cornwall Hospital at a public meeting last night at the Ritz Community Centre in Queens Street in Penzance. The meeting agreed to launch a new campaign specifically to defend the hospital.
The meeting, organised by Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance followed a protest of about fifty protesters in Penzance on Saturday 22 October after the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust announced it would be closing a medical ward at the West Cornwall Hospital at the same time that a refurbished ward is finally re-opened. This represents half of the medical beds. In less than two hours, more than a thousand concerned local people signed a petition calling on the Trust to keep West Cornwall Hospital running as a functioning hospital.
In a meeting held at the hospital earlier this month Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance members were told that the ward would reopen on 5 November. Members are now worried that this lack of 'clarity' will only worsen when, and if, the Trust achieves foundation status.
Anthony Matthews, from Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance said "The reaction from local people was just fantastic. They were queueing up to sign the petition. In fact we were a little bit swamped at first. People of all ages are worried about what the future holds. One young girl told me that she and her friends would chain themselves to the hospital if it was ever threatened with closure".
The trust claims that the ward is being closed so that another can be opened at Treliske Hospital in Truro to deal with higher need during the winter months. However, many feel that this is another step towards the downgrading of the hospital to a clinic.
Many fear having to make expensive and time consuming journeys to Truro for treatment, especially as there are issues around funding for public transport.
Alana Bates, from Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance said "With the Coalition Government's cuts to the NHS we are seeing ward closures across the country. We are determined to keep our local services. If this is not a finincial decision, as the Trust claims, then why can't we have a ward at West Cornwall and a ward at Treliske? We want a good, accessable local hospital for everyone. We will do all we can to show that people in West Cornwall feel strongly about the need for the hospital."