Treatment rooms closed at Harpenden hospital

TREATMENT rooms at Harpenden Memorial Hospital, where minor operations including those for skin cancer have been carried out, have been closed down.

The decision was taken by the Herts Community Trust citing health and safety fears which, it maintains, were raised by staff as well as estates management experts.

The rooms previously made up part of the operating theatre suite at the hospital but surgical procedures were stopped several years ago following a Care Quality Commission ruling about the suitability of the theatres for modern surgery.

But minor operations for a range of skin conditions including dermatology and skin cancer had continued at the hospital which has had a chequered few years including the closure of the Red House in 2007 in the face of a huge local outcry.

The closure of the treatment rooms leaves the hospital effectively in administrative use with paramedics based there and a number of clinics.

Interim trust chief executive Derek Smith said: “We have taken this decision because the fabric and condition of the rooms have been deteriorating for some time and are now a cause of concern around health and safety.”

Mr Smith said staff working in the treatment rooms had been informed of the decision and offered the opportunity to continue their work at other facilities run by the trust.

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He continued: “Meanwhile we are keen to discuss the future options for health care provision at Harpenden and have begun a very positive dialogue with the council, local MPs and GP practices.

“We are discussing a number of ideas about how we might best meet the ongoing health care needs of local people and will hope to share these ideas with local community groups and patients’ representatives in the near future.”

Ian Fulton, chairman of the hospital’s League of Friends, said he had sympathy with the trust’s plight.

He explained: “Sadly because various authorities haven’t known what to do with it, it has been steadily deteriorating. It is mostly administration there now.”

He added: “I feel sorry for the trust because finance is so important and the reality is that running that building or putting it back into a good state of repair would be costly.”

Mr Fulton stressed that the work of the Friends to raise money for the hospital would not be affected by the closure of the treatment rooms.