A TWEET by the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust chaplain comparing the move of gynaecology services to shopping at a furniture store has led to a social media storm.
The trust announced on August 7 the services would be temporarily moved from the Alex to the Worcestershire Royal and then, last Friday (August 14), another announcement was made saying the move was likely to last six months.
In response to that. Rev Dave Southall posted on Tuesday (August 18): “I would have thought patient safety trumped distance travelled. People go to Ikea for less.”
That led to angry comments from residents with one stating: “What a shockingly stupid comparison. The people who drive to Ikea by choice HAVE CARS. Some ill people don’t.”
Another labelled the comment ‘quite offensive and not very helpful to the women and children of North Worcestershire.”
And, to make matters worse, the original post was retweeted by Harry Turner, the chairman of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust.
Neal Stote, the chairman of the Save the Alex campaign, said: “I think the original comment – to compare hospital care to shopping at Ikea – was shocking enough, but for Harry Turner to retweet it is unbelievable.
“He is supposed to be leading the way, but his comments have upset a lot of people.
“It shows they do not realise the strength of feeling in the north of the county.”
On Rev Southall he said: “He’s not a medical expert and, judging by his comments, he is not independent.
“He needs to stick to what he is paid to do and leave the debate about services to the people in the know.”
He called on Rev Southall to retract the comment and urged him to meet with the Save the Alex campaign and its supporters so he could see for himself the strength of feeling.
A spokesperson for WAHT said: “Regarding the Twitter activity, we can’t comment about David Southall’s or Harry Turner’s tweets as they are tweeting from a personal capacity.”
Rev Southall said: “I was tweeting in a personal capacity and it was never my intention to cause any offence.
“I was shocked at the reaction from the people who commented on Facebook and I apologise for any upset caused.
“In retrospect, I could have left the Ikea reference out, but I stand by my comment that I would rather have a safe place to be than one that is nearer.”
He added he would be very happy to meet with Neal and the Save the Alex campaigners to hear their views.
Earlier this week, members of Save the Alex labelled the ‘temporary transfer’ of gynaecology services as ‘a slap in the face’ for residents.
Campaigners also slammed the Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust for the timing of the announcements and their ‘lack of knowledge on how many people would be affected’, as well as the move.
And Neal Stote, the chair of the Save the Alex campaign, told The Standard: “My gut feeling is that it is a permanent move.”
The trust also originally said it would affect ten people a day, but changed that statistic to ten people a week.
Mr Stote said with the amount of time the trust had been looking at the situation, it should know how many people would be affected by the changes.
And he said a lot of people, especially if they were in the 20 per cent in Redditch who had not got cars, would be better off going to Birmingham Women’s Hospital.
Ironically, he added, if people had to get public transport to the Worcestershire Royal, they would have to change trains at the University Station, a stone’s throw from the Birmingham Women’s – a centre of excellence in its field – and get another service to Worcester.
He questioned whether the Worcestershire Royal could cope with the extra ten patients a week and also hit out at the manner the news of the extended transfer was sent out – for the second week in a row the announcements were made on Friday afternoon, at he start of the weekend.
A WAHT spokesperson said: “Our initial estimates of the number of patients affected by this temporary transfer were based on the number of patients we historically saw at the Alexandra Hospital.
“If all of these patients were transferred to Worcestershire Royal Hospital, then the number would be up to ten per day.
“Our experience in the first few weeks of the service change suggest a smaller number need to be transferred, the majority are able to be assessed, treated and discharged at the Alexandra Hospital as previously.”
Regarding the timing of the announcements, the spokesperson added: “We’re sorry our statement regarding this announcement (August 7) came out late on a Friday afternoon.
“We will work hard to make sure this is the exception and not the rule.
“The second announcement (August 14) was sent out by the Worcestershire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups.”