End of an era at Berwick's hospital

A matron at Berwick Infirmary had mixed feelings on the final day on her ward, as demolition work for a state-of-the-art £30million new hospital got under way.

By Andrew Coulson
Friday, 9th July 2021, 12:08 pm
Sue Gibson, left in dark blue, Anna Wood, right in dark blue, and other staff on the ward before moving out.
Sue Gibson, left in dark blue, Anna Wood, right in dark blue, and other staff on the ward before moving out.

And Anna Wood has also praised the whole team for how well they have adapted to the temporary arrangement of providing care for patients at the La Cura House care home in the town (North Road).

Work to demolish parts of the old infirmary, which is part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, will take around four months to complete.

Buildings which formed parts of the old infirmary, including theatres, the day ward, the reception, outbuildings and the energy centre, will be demolished in a methodical and carefully managed sequence to take into consideration the archaeological work which continues on-site.

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Drone footage of the Berwick Infirmary site, and work being carried out.

Anna has worked with the trust for more than 30 years and has been matron at the Berwick and Alnwick infirmaries for more than 10 years.

She said: “We have been building towards this for a little while now as the leads from each department were involved in discussions on the design for the new hospital.

“The Covid-19 pandemic came along and we’ve had to adjust to that, but in recent months we’ve been able to do what was needed to be done to enable the works to go ahead as planned.

“We recently had the final day on the ward and there was excitement that we’ve reached this point, but also sadness because there are so many memories of working on this ward and this affected us in different ways.

Demolition work at the site started last week.

“The team, led by ward manager Sue Gibson, worked together to ensure patients were moved as smoothly as possible and everything that needed to be cleared form the ward was cleared.

“We will be going back, although the layout will be different to enable us to treat patients effectively whilst works go on elsewhere at the site so this was the last day on the ward before things change.

“However, we are looking forward to working at the new hospital once it has been built. It will provide a new, modern environment for patients and staff.”

As a spokesman for the trust explained last month: “Berwick Infirmary dates back nearly 150 years and the fabric of the buildings to be demolished may contain aspergillus, a mould that can affect those with underlying health conditions and a weakened immune system.

“This mould can cause an infection which affects the respiratory system.

“Patient safety always has to be the top priority for the trust and to ensure patient safety and well-being, it will be necessary to temporarily stop admitting patients to stay overnight at the infirmary while this demolition work is carried out.”

Some services such as oncology have moved to Alnwick Infirmary, whilst all minor injury unit and other outpatient department services remain at Berwick, and some patients are being treated at La Cura.

Anna explained that this arrangement does not affect the care home’s services because the Northumbria Healthcare beds are in a designated area that has been closed off and has a separate entrance, and patients are being treated by trust staff.

She added: “As we are a community hospital, we felt it was vitally important to maintain services for our local community.

“The whole team – including our domestic, ancillary and catering staff – has adapted extremely well to the change of environment.

“This includes making sure that our patients are happy and content and creating a welcoming space at our entrance to the home by putting up hanging baskets of flowers.”

It is hoped that the archaeological work at the hospital site will be completed by the end of the year and construction work will begin in spring next year.