Sidmouth inpatient beds ‘absolutely vital’ to those who need them most

Kerstin Burge died on July 4, in Sidmouth Hospital (pictured on the seafront before her death)

Kerstin Burge died on July 4, in Sidmouth Hospital (pictured on the seafront before her death) - Credit: Archant

Grieving widower’s plea for health bosses to reconsider proposals

Alan and Dee Matthews

Alan and Dee Matthews - Credit: Archant

A stark picture of a future without community hospital beds has been painted by people who have needed them the most.

Grieving widower Nigel Burge issued an emotional plea for health bosses to reconsider proposals that could see Sidmouth lose its 24 inpatient beds ahead of a consultation that launched last Friday (October 7).

The Arcot Lane resident said his wife of 48 years, Kerstin, died peacefully in the security of the hospital on July 4, at the age of 72, with her family by her side – and in doing so fulfilled her dying wish.

But proposals put forward by the NHS NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) could mean the loss of this ‘amazing’ facility for patients and their families.

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The CCG has four options on the table - two of them, including the preferred choice, would see Sidmouth Victoria Hospital lose all of its 24 inpatient beds.

Nigel, 69, a retired publican, said: “I was allowed to spend our last night together in the next bed. Kerstin was happy to die there.

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“She had breast cancer about 12 years ago and then it came back two or three years ago with a vengeance. She used to drive for Sidmouth Voluntary Services until 18 months before she died.

“It was absolutely vital to have her in town, close to me. Kerstin did not want to die at home - she wanted to go to Sidmouth hospital.

“What are they going to do? Take everybody to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) and bed block or confine them to home and put more strain on ambulance services?

“I was in the hospital yesterday because my neighbour has got lung cancer. It is criminal to remove a facility that provides such an amazing service for those in the community.”

Nigel and Kerstin ran the Drewe Arms in Broadhembury for 20 years and lived in Branscombe, before moving to Sidmouth upon their retirement.

“She was tough as hell and such a character,” said Nigel of his late wife.

“I used to take her out every day up until she died, with her oxygen tank strapped to the car.”

Dee Matthews has spoken of how her late husband Alan benefited from the hospital in his final days in the ‘fervent hope’ its beds can be saved.

Retired police officer Alan, 76, suffered from pulmonary hypertension, a rare condition which was incurable and inoperable, and it became ‘impossible’ to care for him at home,

“He was terminally ill and totally helpless,” said Dee, 73, of Sidford.

“The RD&E doctors simply didn’t know what to do with him - he was a problem for them and his bed was needed for others who, unlike him, might have a chance of recovery.”

A hospice bed was found for Alan at Sidmouth Victoria Hospital for the palliative care that he needed.

“At last he could find peace staying in one room, where he was nursed by the same familiar staff every day. His own GP was in overall charge of his care. His family and friends were all able to visit him, which gave him great comfort in his last weeks of life.”

Alan died at Sidmouth hospital on April 2.

“If the beds at Sidmouth Victoria Hosptial were closed, what would happen to patients like Alan?,” asked Dee. “There is no hospice here. How would the RD&E cope? They are desperately needed.”

Health bosses say the new model of care would be ‘better for patients’ and will help the CCG plug a potential £384million deficit by 2020/21.

They argue there is a need for fewer inpatient beds in community hospitals and more care being delivered in people’s homes.

But Councillor Lyn Harding – a representative of Tipton St John – says that, in her experience, there are already persistent cases of bed-blocking and a lack of homecare provision that is putting a strain on services.

Cllr Harding said: “I have been in hospital on numerous occasions over the last two years that this [regime of cuts] has been building and on numerous occasions I have been moved around in the middle of the night.

“When I was in hospital in July there were three people who could not go to community hospitals or their homes because there was no care for them.

“At 3am, a porter will come over and wake you up to take you to another ward. Last time I was in, I was a medical patient and I should have been on a medical ward, but there was no space. Where are they going to put patients if they are having trouble placing people now?”

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