Aimee Brannen , Chief Reporter
Thursday, January 27, 2011
A WELL-loved volunteer-run hospital tea bar has been pushed aside to make way for a major coffee chain.
The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) café in the main entrance of St Albans City Hospital’s Gloucester Wing recently closed to make way for a Costa coffee shop, which will also replace the hospital’s restaurant.
The £250,000 refurbishment will be funded by catering and cleaning services company Medirest and West Herts Hospital NHS Trust (WHHT) said the aim was to transform the entrance area into a modern café-style environment.
The WRVS tea bar has been in the hospital for 30 years and is a feature that many had been fond of. The charity will still have a presence at the hospital with a new kiosk in the pathology waiting area but will not be allowed to sell hot food or drinks.
St Albans resident Rosemary Walton contacted the Herts Advertiser to voice her disapproval and said: “By order of the powers that be, hot drinks cannot be served in the new kiosk, those are served at a table still in the entrance hall and it didn’t look all that inviting.
“It was not the same as before when you could buy your food and hot drinks at the same time, without having to walk round the corner first. The volunteers at the new kiosk didn’t look very happy.”
She added: “After 12 hours of starvation for a cholesterol test, I really looked forward to my coffee and one of the excellent doughnuts on sale. The new arrangement isn’t really helpful to people waiting for their transport home either. Change is not always for the best.”
Esther Gillespie, WRVS local delivery manager for Herts and Essex, said: “It is sad to say goodbye to the old tea bar but WRVS will still have a presence at St Albans Hospital. We will no longer serve hot food and drink but are very excited about the opportunities the new site will bring.”
Elizabeth Pack, WRVS local service manager for St Albans added: “WRVS is changing the way it provides services with more of a focus on helping people at home after a hospital stay. Anyone interested in volunteering for the new WRVS services should give us a call.”
A spokesperson for WHHT said it had been necessary to relocate the WRVS to undertake the significant refurbishment project. He continued: “The Trust would like to say thank you to the vast number of volunteers who have served and supported the hospital over the many years and who will hopefully continue to do so in the new location in the busy blood testing waiting area.
“The main entrance will be greatly improved by the £250,000 refurbishment, funded by Medirest. It will include moving the main restaurant to the entrance area and transforming it into a modern café-style environment incorporating a coffee shop, longer opening hours, and a greater variety of food available.
“It will also allow easier and more convenient access to the entrance and exit areas, particularly for those patients waiting for transport.”
The project is expected to be completed in April or May this year.