Plans which could see Huddersfield lose its A&E department have sparked huge opposition across the town with more than 30,000 people joining a Facebook page dedicated to saving the service – and that figure could well soar to 50,000.
Thousands more have signed petitions organised by the MPs Barry Sheerman and Jason McCartney and many others have taken to social media voicing their disbelief at the proposals.
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Hospital bosses have confirmed the plan to switch full A&E provision to Calderdale Royal Hospital is part of a bigger scheme that would see the existing Royal Infirmary in Acre Street demolished and a new hospital built across the road on the Acre Mills site that would include operating theatres and wards but not a full A&E unit.
Karl Deitch, who runs a security business in Huddersfield, set up the Facebook page Let’s Save HRI after hearing of the plans on Friday lunchtime. Within hours the page had more than 30,000 members.
He expects it to reach 50,000 in the next few days.
Karl, 36, of Golcar, said: “When I first heard of the plans I couldn’t believe it. I was having a sandwich and was sat there thinking we need to do something about this.
“Something needs to be done so that people can show they are not happy.
“A town the size of Huddersfield needs an A&E department, there’s no two ways about it.
“How could someone in Marsden get to Halifax, in rush hour, if they were having a heart attack?
“It’s a matter of life and death and should be a big concern to everyone in the town.”
Comments on the Facebook page include one from Ruth Brook, who said: “I just can’t believe this. I work within the care industry that relies on ambulances and A&E. Not having an A&E in a town as big as Huddersfield is nothing short of ludicrous.”
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has described the plan as a complete u-turn by health chiefs who had earlier been said to be in favour of closing the A&E unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital and centralising casualty care in Huddersfield.
Now documents revealed to Mr Sheerman show that the favoured option is to shut down the Royal Infirmary unit and move everything to Calderdale.
Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney is also campaigning to maintain the A&E service in Huddersfield.
He said he was shocked at the proposals, which he has said are to shore up the controversial Private Finance Initiative which funded the Calderdale Royal Hospital.
He said: “I’m appalled by this news.
“The crippling PFI deal will see the taxpayer lumbered with a bill for a staggering £773m for a hospital that cost just £64m. It is senseless.
“I am feeling very angry indeed that they want to scale down resources here to help the PFI deal in Calderdale.
“What on earth would be the point of building a shiny new hospital at Acre Mills if it didn’t have basic services that our growing university town needs?”