Campaigners fighting to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary have thrown down the gauntlet to health chiefs over the “failing” public consultation.
Ashundreds of angry protesters were shut out of the latest meeting at the John Smith’s Stadium, campaign founder Karl Deitch said: “Give us the whole stadium and we will fill it.”
With up to 2,000 people converging on the stadium on Monday – and only 600 or so allowed in – bosses at Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) have bowed to pressure to hold a third public meeting in June.
The date and venue has yet to be decided but Karl, founder of the #HandsOffHRI campaign, said: “The public of Huddersfield need this meeting.
“So far we are having a public consultation without consulting the public. How can that be right?
“People are not being heard and when we do get to ask questions they are not being answered.”
Karl, 36, welcomed a third meeting – the first was held in Halifax last Thursday – but said: “Which venue will be big enough? Only the John Smith’s Stadium.
“If people know they can definitely get in to listen to the consultation and have their questions answered honestly without being fobbed off we will fill the stadium.
“Only by giving us the stadium will they be consulting the public because right now they are not.”
Karl hailed the turnout on Monday as “phenomenal” and said some were happy just to be a part of the noisy protest outside.
But many of the 500 people in the main room in the Revell Ward Suite were denied a voice.
Karl said: “I was sat next to someone who had his hand up for two hours and never got called. We had 10 key questions that we wanted answers to but they never came to our corner of the room.”
Karl described the meeting as a “massive positive” for the campaign and added: “I feel this could be a turning point.
“The strength of feeling was amazing. People who don’t normally go to meetings went to this meeting. Not everyone is into this kind of thing. I wasn’t either until this campaign.
“But this is something so important that everybody has to be interested in it.”
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Karl warned that campaigners were educating themselves fast.
“I have seen on our Facebook group people who knew nothing to start with,” he said. “They had never heard of the CCGs and knew nothing about Government policy. Now they know everything. They are absorbing information like sponges.
“We are learning fast and the CCG needs to buck its ideas up.”
Karl said the panel – including Dr Steve Ollerton, chairman of Greater Huddersfield CCG, chief officer Carol McKenna and Owen Williams, chief executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust – had failed to give any proper answers.
“There was too much sniggering and mumbling to each other and going off the page. They were keen to tell us about their NHS careers and their families and why we should trust them but that’s not good enough. We want proper answers.”
The CCGs want to move emergency care, including A&E, to Calderdale Royal Hospital at Halifax and make Huddersfield a centre for routine and planned surgery.
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary would be shut down and demolished with a new hospital built on the nearby Acre Mills site.
Campaigners say “people will die on the Elland by-pass” if Huddersfield is left without an A&E.
Halifax is seen as too far out while rundown HRI is no longer fit for purpose. There are now renewed calls for a new hospital at Ainley Top.