Final patient leaves North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary
The last patients were today leaving the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary as they move into a new renal unit. Dave Blackhurst reports ...
CRAFTSMAN David Dawson has brought the curtain down on 143 years of healthcare in the Potteries.
The jewellery restorer became the final outpatient to be treated at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary which closes today.
The 49-year-old has already made medical history by being on kidney dialysis longer than anyone else at the hospital.
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So it was fitting that the final session of his 30 years of care at the infirmary coincided with its final operational weekend.
And as he helped staff switch off the lights of the hospital which opened in 1869, he said: "The place may be old and full of ghosts but it has never stopped the staff and the service being fantastic."
David, of Milton, who repaired jewellery for Pidducks in Hanley, was then shown around the new £12 million renal unit on the City General site where his next dialysis will take place tomorrow.
He added: "Everyone will really miss the old place which is so familiar and has so many memories.
"But this new unit is just incredible and, with the same staff we have all come to know as friends, it will be brilliant.
"When you think of the thousands and thousands of people who have been treated in the Royal Infirmary over the generations, I feel really honoured to be the last to leave."
David's kidneys started to fail when he caught an infection as a teenager. He had a transplant at 21 but the new organ was rejected by his body after nine months and he has been on dialysis ever since.
All other services moved out of the Victorian building and into the University Hospital of North Staffordshire's new £400 million re-development on the City General site between last November and this Spring.
The renal department was the last to go because there was no room for it in the so-called superhospital planned 10 years ago and built under a Government lending scheme.
Instead the Government approved the use of public money to create a self-contained two-storey complex next to the superhospital.
Its state-of-the-art surroundings – together with extra space, rooms, dialysis stations and privacy – remove any sense of it being an after-thought.
But approaching the old unit through the winding, creaking corridors now deserted at the Royal Infirmary is like walking through a haunted house and finding a party in full swing in the last room.
Its 100 staff have certainly felt the isolation of being the only-remaining department in a hospital which buzzed with activity just a few months ago.
And special clinical arrangements had to be set up to make sure the patients could have quick recourse if needed to other services which were a 10-minite drive away at the City General.
Modern matron Shirley Brooks, aged 56, of Bucknall, who has worked at the Royal Infirmary since 1979, said: "I have so many wonderful memories of the place which go back even further as I would often come to visit my gran here when I was 10.
"It feels really special to be the last ones here and to be turning out the lights for good.
"The hospital means so much to just about everyone in North Staffordshire so we all feel a bit sad the era is coming to an end. But as one door shuts another opens and we are all excited about moving to such a modern hospital."
The old department was split in two with its kidney ward (number 29) in the main infirmary and the dialysis unit (31) which has been in a portable building since 1993.
The building has been extended twice to meet growing demand – including controversially knocking through to a social club.
The new home has dialysis services on the first floor with a ramp leading up to it, and the ward below.
Ward manager Pam Towe, who has worked in the department for 25 years, said: "Staff have been so happy here and the move has left many with tears in their eyes.
"The memories and atmosphere is so strong that it comes out of the walls at you but we will take the family feel we have built up with our patients with us into the new building.
"Being the very last clinical staff to leave after 143 years makes it feel like the hand of history is on our shoulders.
"But ever since I came they have been telling us we would be moving out in five years' time. We still can't believe that time has finally come and can't wait to start in the new place. There is excitement tinged with sadness."