Booth Hall R.I.P.
BOOTH HALL Children’s hospital is to close its doors in under four years
It will be replaced by a new children’s ‘super hospital’ in central Manchester in April 2009.
At the same time, it is hoped that more children’s care will take place in the community – in Middleton at three new clinics planned for central Middleton, Alkrington and Rhodes.
But many local people feel that their views have not been sufficiently taken into account.
Back in 1994 townsfolk were up in arms about the prospect of Booth Hall closing, and now they have come forward once again.
The Rev Ian Cook, of St Gabriel’s Church, Middleton Junction, was personally affected last time Booth Hall was threatened with closure as his grandson, then just two years old, was turned away from the Royal Oldham as he was too young.
If the same happened in 2009 this could mean a detour into central Manchester, which could easily take an hour in rush-hour traffic – not ideal with an ill baby.
Rev Cook said: “Booth Hall has a big attachment to our area as it has served so many local children. There might be all sorts of financial reasons to close it, but communities need services in their communities.
“I don’t think people who make these decisions understand the views of local people.“
Councillor Lil Murphy, who travelled to Parliament in 1994 to protest against Booth Hall’s closure, said: “I think to build a hospital in the middle of Manchester is a bad idea. It’s no good for people on this side of Greater Manchester who haven’t got their own transport.
“I’m still against Booth Hall closing as we fought long and hard for it to stay open.“
MP Graham Stringer also remains against the decision, although tomorrow (Friday) he will officially launch the beginning of building work at the new children’s hospital in Manchester.
He told the Guardian: “I have always opposed the closure of Booth Hall. The decision was taken by Stephen Dorrell (the then health secretary) in March 1997 in the dying days of the Conservative government.
“I was against it then and I remain against it now. It was a wrong decision, but now we have to ensure that the new children’s hospital is as good as it can be, and also that the regular non-specialised children’s facilities are moved into North Manchester General Hospital.
“They have to honour the pledge that was given by Stephen Dorrell that, when Booth Hall closes, the basic children’s facilities and Accident and Emergency would be transferred to North Manchester General.
“That is a commitment that has been given to me by the health service and it is something I have felt very strongly about.“
A spokesman for the NHS said: “The new specialist children’s hospital will offer exceptional opportunities for staff to continue developing their specialist paediatric knowledge and skills across a broad range of children’s healthcare services, in an environment that will meet the changing demands for children’s healthcare.
“This will enable us to develop, expand and continuously improve our services.
“The transfer to a major teaching hospital site will also encourage innovation and improve the quality of our healthcare services through stronger and wider clinical links.”