Here we offer a platform for the views of two people opposed to the closure of the maternity and A&E units at Lewisham Hospital.
John O’Donohue, a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Lewisham Hospital for the last 14 years gives his personal verdict:
“When the proposals were announced, there was just widespread disbelief. We are among the top 40 hospitals in ranking. We have worked very hard
with social services to make sure Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust is integrated in the community. There is a lot of pride in the hospital, as it is at the centre of the community.
“Our A&E is brand new. That’s in response to an increased demand in emergency services – we were told we were here to stay. And to think this could happen because of another trust’s bankruptcy – not even our own, as we are in surplus! The staff can’t understand how the failure of a different hospital could affect this one.
“We started planning our response about three weeks ago. There was a consultant meeting as nobody was sure what was going to happen at that point. We had some ITU doctors produce a report, which went into Private Eye. Other doctors have all produced their own rebuttals.
“That led to the idea of organising the petitions two weeks ago. I thought it would be a good idea to have a petition specifically from doctors, and we got signatures from two thirds of Lewisham’s GPs.
“Getting support from across London and the rest of the country has been really gratifying. People who used to work here and are now scattered across England are emailing us and saying they can’t believe that this is the case. From their recollection of working here, it has always been a very busy and a very well-run hospital.
“A merger with Queen Elizabeth is not the problem; I don’t think people are holding out against that. It’s only a problem if it means that Lewisham patients will lose acute services.
“Where will people go? Queen Elizabeth is too far. They say that some out-patient services will remain here, just without an admittance facility. But a lot of patients do need admission. As well as coming to clinics, they also get sick very quickly and need urgent care. People need local services close to them. It’s about having these acute services to hand so that if you’re sick or need urgent attention, you don’t have to take three buses to get to a different hospital.
“It’s a very curious definition of engagement that Mr Kershaw has – I’d like to see whose dictionary he is using. It’s not in my book. It has created a lot of angst among my colleagues, particularly the two senior colleagues who were at the clinical advisory panels. No vote was allowed and no dissent was recorded.
“As a consultant I’m flattered and humbled by the support GPs and patients have shown in the past few weeks.”
Tony Cisse, a father from Sydenham, explains what the hospital means to him and his family.
“Four of my children have been born at Lewisham hospital. Over 25 years Ihave seen the hospital develop, expand and improve, while the care and service of the staff has always given me full confidence. All four of those births were by caesarean section. I have nothing but the highest praise for the services provided.
“A great thing about the hospital is that it is local; one 20 minute bus ride or a 15 minute drive. This meant that when my wife was in hospital having our children I could go during the morning to visit, pop home and sort out domestic things, pop back for afternoon visiting and get home in time to sort out the rest of the family. This would not be possible if I had to travel to Woolwich, Bromley or Kings (all of them two or three bus rides away). As my wife spent at least seven days in hospital on each occasion this was a very important consideration. But also the closeness allowed other family and friends to pop in, which is so important in providing the support that aids recovery.
“Last night my 13 year old daughter had symptoms for which NHS Direct instructed us to go straight to A&E. Luckily, a friend with a car was visiting and 15 minutes later, we were there. After three hours of treatment and check-ups she was released to go home at 10:30pm. A £10 mini-cab brought us home. Going to over-crowded Woolwich A&E (I know because my wife works there – it takes her over an hour some mornings to get to work by 2 or 3 buses) would have meant a £25 cab fare there and back.
“Bringing up a family in Lewisham means that there is often the need to use Lewisham A&E. I have witnessed the improvements that today make its facilities first class to match the first class nature of the staff. The new wards overlooking the river and park are, if anything, too good. I am so disgusted at the proposals I am almost lost for words. How long would the Ladywell mental health wing survive next to high end luxury living apartments?
“This proposed closure must be stopped.”