SIR, - Is there a conspiracy going on with regard to St Albans City Hospital to downgrade it so much that the Health Authority will eventually feel justified in closing it down? I had occasion to visit there a few days before Christmas and I felt that the
SIR, - Is there a conspiracy going on with regard to St Albans City Hospital to downgrade it so much that the Health Authority will eventually feel justified in closing it down? I had occasion to visit there a few days before Christmas and I felt that there was a distinct air of dejection about the place. The first thing I noticed as I walked in was the absence of the big Christmas tree in front of reception of which in former years great care was taken by myself and Friends of the Hospital to decorate this to its best advantage as it was the first thing that people would see as they entered the building. There was a crib mounted in front of the tree, lit up inside, with the baby Jesus, animals and appropriate figures. The children loved this. The nearby teabar, I noted, also seemed lacking in the Christmas spirit and as I walked through to outpatients, I was aware once again of that downcast atmosphere. I spoke a few days later to a colleague of mine who has connections with the hospital and she told me that there was no tree in reception because it had been stolen. I was horrified yet not surprised at this disclosure although it beggars belief. This thieving from the hospital I know goes on all the time because there is no security or none to speak of. A blind eye is turned to the problem and staff are not allowed to disclose anything. But I am not staff now - I was for 27 years - and would like to ask why is this situation allowed to continue? Is it penny-pinching with regard to security and blow the consequences? I certainly would not relish being an overnight patient at the hospital for obvious reasons. A little while back I was in the Harpenden BUPA Hospital as a NHS patient and while I received the same good care there I would have received at our own hospital, it was very noticeable that the outside surroundings to the building were as clean as the inside. I consider this is very important because of what could be trodden into the hospital. Could this be why they have no incidence of MRSA? I'm loath to say that the front entrances of our NHS hospitals are filthy with dog-ends and general dirt. Why should this be? We pay generously for our health service so we should expect the best. The Health Authority and its managers are obviously incompetent. They desecrated our lovely new Gloucester Wing almost as soon as its doors were opened. We were quickly robbed of our most up-to-date coronary-care unit. Our much-needed St Julian Children's ward was closed down. Quite unforgiveable really as a child suffers more if it is too far from its mother. I should know as in the past I've had two seriously-ill children in our hospital but I maintained a certain peace of mind knowing I wasn't too far away from them. Now our excellent day-surgery unit is threatened and I think this downward spiral should stop. There are some who seem determined to shut us down and, as they put it, build a brand new hospital elsewhere. What a disgraceful waste of public money when we have a perfectly good hospital here. We have a right to retain our hospital with all essential services. Why should we have to struggle to Watford Hospital which is old and outdated, besides having no parking facilities? I shall be contacting our MP with a view to requesting an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Health who should stop the rot before it is too late. I know I will have a lot of support. ELIZABETH DUMPLETON, Wilstone Drive, St Albans.