QUESTIONS are being asked about the future of Dawlish Hospital’s minor injuries unit after a 73-year-old woman fell and needed treatment for a severe cut.
The MIU has been closed for more than three years, partly due to the pandemic when staff had to be redeployed but mainly due to staffing shortages and problems recruiting.
But the Friends of Dawlish Hospital chairman says the NHS has ‘failed to deliver their promise of a regular and reliable service since 2015’.
Geoff King says the Friends have come up with alternatives to address the staffing issue such as siting an emergency ambulance at the hospital so that crew could deal with MIU patients between emergency calls.
But he said: ‘This and other suggestions have been rejected as they ‘do not fit in to our model of service’.
‘Well, could I suggest their model of service doesn’t work and it is about time they came up with one that does.’
The pensioner suffered the fall at her home in the town in the early hours of the morning, gashing her arm on the corner of a table.
She waited until later that morning before contacting Dawlish Hospital.
Her friend Adam Solley, who came to her aid, explained: ‘She had a large deep open wound to her arm from hitting the corner of her bedside table.
‘Not wanting to cause a fuss, she waited until the morning to call Dawlish Hospital and ask for an appointment.
‘They stated that they did not have an emergency department anymore and told her to go to Newton Abbot Hospital.She told them she didn’t drive and they advised she took the bus.
‘Thankfully I knocked on her door around 11am for a chat and I saw the state of her arm and she told me what had happened.’
Adam then drove her to Newton Abbot Hospital only to find the urgent treatment centre there was closed too.
They were told to go to Torbay Hospital’s accident and emergency department.
Not being able to find anywhere to park, Adam dropped his friend at the emergency department where she waited six hours to be treated.
He said Torbay Hospital A&E was ‘overwhelmed’.
She needed nine stitches to her wound and Adam was finally able to take her home at 6.30pm that evening.
He said: ‘This was most distressing for her and in my eyes completely unacceptable. Imagine if she had got the bus to Newton Abbot hospital only to be turned away and this adds more pressure on Torbay Hospital.’
Another Dawlish resident reported having a similar experience taking a train and taxi to get the Newton Abbot Hospital, saying there were no available buses or they would have had to wait a long time and possibly take three buses.
Last year, NHS bosses said it had recruited new staff who would be trained and it was aimed to have the unit open again within 12 months.
Mr King explained: ‘Over the last two years we have been urging the NHS to re-open the MIU by representation at the Coastal Engagement Group and by councillors.
‘In May 2022 we were assured that a training plan had been put in place and the resultant qualified staff would be in post at Dawlish for the 2023 summer season.
‘This has not happened because, we are told, the newly qualified staff have found other jobs or could not be retained.
‘Over the years we have been told by the NHS that it is difficult to recruit staff who have the appropriate qualifications to run an MIU.
‘It is there to do what the title suggests, minor injuries, such as cuts, bruises, sunstroke and bites.
‘Anything more serious, the patient is directed to the Urgent Treatment Centre at Newton Abbot or A and E.
‘If a more clinical assessment is needed, Dawlish Hospital has a GP surgery next door and I’m sure they would be able to help in such circumstances.
‘The NHS say that people should go to the UTC at Newton Abbot but we have seen their team reduced by stress of overload which has also resulted in temporary closure.
‘We notice that Totnes MIU has re-opened. Questioning the reasons, I was told Totnes had a higher footfall in their MIU over the five years pre-Covid than Dawlish.
‘That’s not surprising since Dawlish was barely open because the NHS failed to deliver their promise of a regular and reliable service since 2015.’