NORTH Cornwall faces a shortage of beds and trained staff in its community hospitals.
As well as Launceston Hospital having to close 10 of its 20 beds, which has caused a furore this week, Stratton Hospital, which is due to reopen its inpatient facilities on November 1, does not have enough staff to get all of its 17 beds into use.
Peninsula Community Health, which operates both hospitals, announced this week that it will be closing half of its beds in the two wards at Launceston because of internal promotions, maternity leave and redeployment back to Stratton Hospital which has been closed to inpatients for 18 months while major building work has been taking place.
However, while part of Launceston's problem has been the fact that staff will return to Stratton, that hospital itself will not be able to operate at its peak level.
Candy Baker, a member of North Cornwall Healthwatch and chairman of the Leagues of Friends for both Cornwall and Stratton, said that the staff who were returning to Stratton were those who were working there before it closed for its upgrade.
"Staff were temporarily distributed to various places including Launceston. Stratton is not to blame for the shortage, we have always had problems recruiting staff at Launceston."
Mrs Baker said when Stratton reopens there will only be enough staff for six beds, whereas there are 16 full-time and one day case available.
"We have not been able to open all our beds, so I would not like Launceston to think we are being greedy. It is a problem all over Cornwall. The truth is we need more staff all round."
A spokesperson for PCH said they had to close the Launceston beds to ensure a safe staffing level.
They were actively recruiting hospital staff for both Launceston and Stratton and would be able to reopen the beds once the positions were filled.
"We have had problems recruiting staff but will be launching a recruitment campaign," she said.
The loss of the ten beds at Launceston has sparked action from politicians and the League of Friends.
Phil Parsons, Cornwall councillor for the Altarnun ward just outside the town, said: "Everything must be done to maintain and preserve this vital service for Launceston and the surrounding area."
Mr Parsons said he had spoken to Kevin Baber, chief executive of PCH, who assured him that there were no plans to withdraw services from Launceston but rather a commitment to the long-term staffing and provision of services at the hospital.
"As a member of Cornwall Council's Health and Adults Overview and Scrutiny Committee I have the assurance of the chairman that the committee will request the PCH Trust to attend the November meeting to explain why they have changed or failed to provide the services they are contracted to deliver."
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