Hospital closure claims spark furious response

Issue 417

A General Election candidate bidding to become Dewsburys next MP has sparked a fierce political row after expressing new fears over the future of Dewsbury District Hospital.

Coun Khizar Iqbal ignited the election campaign by claiming an NHS source had told him Dewsbury Hospital was under threat.

Coun Iqbal was accused of scaremongering when he revealed in January that Dewsburys proposed £29 million cancer unit would be scrapped.

But his information proved correct despite official denials and the confirmation came just weeks later.

Now Coun Iqbal has told The Press he has new information from the same highlevel source.

Coun Iqbal, who is standing as an independent against Labour MP Shahid Malik in Dewsbury and Mirfield, said his source within the MidYorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust had warned him that the closure of Dewsbury Hospital was an option being seriously considered.

It was reported two weeks ago that NHS Kirklees would have to save £75 million on the two hospitals in Dewsbury and Huddersfield.

An official was quoted as saying: Opportunities for local hospitals to find efficiencies appear to be massive.

That has further fuelled fears over Dewsbury Hospital and Coun Iqbal said: Dewsbury always loses out to Huddersfield.

Coun Iqbal said he wasnt saying Dewsbury Hospital was definitely closing but there was an option on the table to shut it, transfer minor services to local health centres and sell the site for housing.

I was accused of scaremongering over the cancer unit but I was vindicated on that and now the same source has told me about an option to close the hospital, he said.

Everyone knows that services are being moved to Pinderfields and Pontefract by stealth and we must fight to stop our local hospital being taken away piece by piece.

If it goes on, the public will suddenly wake up and find all the major services have gone so there would be no point keeping the hospital open.

Coun Iqbal launched a save our hospital petition and so have the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Malik hit back at Coun Iqbal and the Lib Dems and said: Sadly voters in Dewsbury are now quite used to irresponsible politicians telling complete lies to scaremonger during election campaigns.

In 2005 the Tories in Dewsbury said the hospital, Heckmondwike Grammar, and the police station would close.

The hospital has had £108m extra since then, the police station is still there and Heckmondwike Grammar has expanded.

The Lib Dems have a save our hospital petition every year, its a running joke but a very, very cruel one on the elderly, vulnerable and longterm sick.

Mr Malik added: This week I spoke personally with the MidYorkshire Trust about the allegation that our hospital could close. The response was clear so Ill quote it: How utterly ridiculous.

Coun Karam Hussain, who complained about a shortage of pillows during a recent stay at Dewsbury hospital, said Mr Malik had done nothing to protect Dewsbury hospital.

Local people are desperate to keep the local hospital open, said Coun Hussain.

If anyone is a joke it is Mr Malik. If we hadnt campaigned on the hospital over the last couple of years it might have been closed by now.

The people of Dewsbury are right behind us.

Tory candidate Simon Reevell said Coun Iqbal should come clean about his source and said: Politicians have no business peddling rumour in the hope of political gain. Lets separate rumour from fact.

In a joint statement the MidYorkshire Trust and NHS Kirklees denied any plans to close Dewsbury hospital.

The statement reads: For at least the past five years, false rumours have circulated the district claiming that there are plans to close the local hospital.

Every year we try to quash the rumour once and for all. But unfortunately, despite there being not an ounce of truth in them, the rumours are still circulated and this creates a huge amount of unnecessary anxiety for local people and staff.

Our message to local people could not be clearer. There are absolutely no plans whatsoever to close Dewsbury and District Hospital.

We have given this assurance to local people, staff and Coun Iqbal on a number of occasions so we are very concerned to read that he is saying that he has been given information by an employee of MidYorkshire Hospitals.

This is an extremely serious issue and we will be contacting Coun Iqbal to understand where the inaccurate information could have come from.

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