Hospital League spends £221,455 on patient care

EIGHT out of 11 specialised electrical beds in the Conquest Hospital's critical care unit date back to the hospital's opening in 1992.

All 11 are now so old that at times three in a unit where at any one time up to 30% of the patients come from Bexhill may be out of action because of technical faults.

The League of Friends of Bexhill Hospital was told last night that it can take staff more than an hour to transfer a seriously-ill patient to a replacement bed.

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Hiring a bed when one of the unit's ageing examples is out of commission costs 140 in transport and 140 a day rental.

Pauline Simes, lead nurse, critical care, accompanied by colleague Fiona Stedman, brought colour brochures illustrating new beds to last Thursday's meeting of the Bexhill league's general committee.

The complex Hill-Rom beds cost an eye-watering 17,895 each.

But Pauline explained: "These are the beds that will enable patients to get out of critical care much, much quicker because they won't have the complications that they have now."

The range of specialised features includes power-operation to tilt the patient at the optimum 45 degrees to avoid pulmonary difficulties and power operation to turn them gently.

The bed weighs the patient so that medication can be tailored to body mass and the air pressure in the mattresses is adjusted to match.

The pressing need for the beds was the largest single item of a list of hospital requests put before the meeting.

Jim Davey, director of operations for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said in answer to questions that of an annual capital budget of 7m, the Trust had just 2m a year to spend on new and replacement equipment.

Ideally, the Trust would like every patient to have the benefits of a bed of Hill-Rom standards.

But the reality was that they would not be a priority even for the critical care unit.

After the Trust guests had left the meeting, league committee members and officers debated at length what action to take.

On the basis that they would be of direct benefit to critically-ill patients from Bexhill, they voted to buy six beds.

The cost made up 107,000 out of a total of 221,455 worth of equipment agreed at the meeting.

Other purchases included a laser pain unit for the physiotherapy unit at Bexhill Hospital

It will be used to give electrotherapy soft-tissue/myofascial treatment for acute and chronic injuries and post-operative care. The meeting was told by Jim Davey that the laser improves the healing rate for scar tissue in addition to giving pain relief.

The meeting agreed to a 40,250 request to modify and redecorate Bexhill's physiotherapy department, including provision of patient alarms in the cubicles and new lighting and seating.

The item was agreed in principle. But the committee is querying a reference in the request which referred to repairing the carpet. It is calling for an estimate for the cost of replacing the carpet with an approved hygienic floor-covering.

The meeting also agreed to buy a specialist bed for the Conquest cardiac care unit. The bed will be used for the emergency replacement of heart pacemakers and is needed to replace a unit which has been repaired so many times that it is at the end of its working life.

But the meeting rejected a request to join the League of Friends of Eastbourne Hospital and pay half the 10,000 cost of a media company producing a DVD for the Trust.

The DVD would explain hospital procedures to patients with learning difficulties and their carers to ease their apprehension before hospital admission.

Last night's meeting approved the draft of treasurer Robin Barnett's annual report to be put to the league's annual meeting on April 15.

Some 73% of the league's giving goes to Bexhill Hospital and 27% to aiding Bexhill patients at the Conquest.

Mr Barnett said three benefactors had left bequests totalling 32,000 to the league so far this year.

Interest from league funds with the Charities Official Investment Fund totalled 26,000 over the quarter.

The annual meeting would be told that the league had given 479,992 towards patient care at Bexhill and the Conquest in 2008.