Chief executive Julia Bridgewater speaks of regret after resigning from University Hospital of North Staffordshire
HOSPITAL chief executive Julia Bridgewater has spoken of her regret after resigning amid a deepening financial crisis.
The 50-year-old is the second executive to quit the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in six weeks following the departure of finance director John Maddison.
It is understood Mrs Bridgewater decided to leave two months ago as debts spiralled to £27 million following the reopening of dozens of beds at the Hartshill centre.
But the mother-of-three agreed to stay on to allow for the appointment of an interim chief executive.
Mrs Bridgewater’s departure has stunned community leaders and campaigners who claimed she has been made the scapegoat for financial problems elsewhere in the NHS.
They had hoped Mrs Bridgewater had weathered the storm this month after she secured an £8 million bailout from NHS funding bodies to pay for some of the extra beds. But The Sentinel understands hospital executives were unhappy at not receiving support sooner.
Mrs Bridgewater – who has spent her entire 28-year NHS career at the Hartshill centre – today spoke of her sadness at leaving ‘the hospital I love’.
She said: “I am terribly sad to be leaving the trust and all its committed staff after all we have achieved. I love what is my hometown hospital. But feel it is right to seek new challenges and allow others to continue the vision for the hospital.”
Most of the £27 million deficit against the hospital’s £450 million budget follows the decision to recommission 80 beds due to close as part of moves to treat more people out in the community. But the hospital has seen accident unit cases rise by 10 per cent to 110,000-a-year.
Mrs Bridgewater was appointed chief executive in October 2006. Since then, the hospital has almost wiped out the MRSA superbug, boasts among the best records in Britain for treating strokes and broken hips, opened the £400 million superhospital and set up a trauma centre.
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of NHS campaign group Healthwatch, said today: “Julia has been a force for good with a record second to none. She had to open these extra beds to keep people safe but compared to finance that seems a low priority in the NHS today.”
Julia Ellis, union official representing the hospital’s 7,000-workforce, said: “She was very popular and highly-respected. We’re sorry to see her go.”
Interim chief executive Jim Birrell, who ran Liverpool’s Aintree Hospitals Foundation Trust, starts on February 1.