Three operating theatres which had to close at King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, re-opened this week.
Continued structural problems led to the closure and this week it has prompted renewed calls to the government to act on its announcement for “desperately needed funding” for a new hospital.
At the hospital’s board meeting this week it was agreed to press on with key plans, which include a multi-storey car park, with the hope it will help pave the way for a successful rebuild bid and to continue to lobby for a new hospital.
The government’s decision on which hospitals will be selected for a rebuild has been delayed yet again and is now not expected until October.
Laura Skaife-Knight, the hospital’s deputy chief executive, took to social media this week and tweeted: “We deserve a new hospital and we’ll keep going!”
Bosses at the aging QEH had to close three of the six theatres last Friday after staff spotted more issues with the ceiling.
Operations scheduled to take place were transferred to other areas of the hospital and the theatres re-opened on Tuesday.
Sarah Jones, QEH deputy chief operating officer, said: “Following issues with the suspended ceiling above the corridor in our main operating theatre complex, we have installed 18 temporary Acrow props and a number of wooden failsafes to the ceiling in order to maximise safety for our patients and staff.
“Thanks to the swift actions of our teams, all operations scheduled to take place have gone ahead in our other operating theatres and the Sandringham Unit.
“We’re incredibly grateful to our colleagues for their support during this incident, however the disruption demonstrates once again the urgent need for an announcement about the desperately needed funding for a new QEH.”
The 42-year-old hospital has outlived its 30-year lifespan and trust bosses are waiting to find out if the QEH will be selected by the government as one of the those to be rebuilt.
Last week, foreign secretary Liz Truss, who is MP for South West Norfolk, pledged her “complete commitment” to the government’s hospital building programme and also to “sorting the QEH”.
Ms Truss, who is in the running against Rishi Sunak to be the country’s next prime minister, has pledged her support for the hospital in her current role and also if she was to become prime minister.
Caroline Shaw, QEH chief executive, said: “We continue to do all we can to maximise safety of the current hospital and currently have over 1,500 steel and timber support props and failsafes across 56 areas of QEH, including many in clinical areas.
“A three-year £90m rolling programme of work is underway to install more failsafes across the first floor of the hospital on a rolling basis.
“However, this won’t extend the life of the building beyond 2030 and a new Queen Elizabeth Hospital is the only sustainable long-term solution to solving the unique challenges we face.
“Despite our failing estate which isn’t the environment we would want for any of our patients, our teams always strive to provide the very best care.
“We are very grateful to Liz Truss, as one of our local MPs, for her ongoing support to bring a much-needed new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.
“We are confident we have developed a compelling case and done everything possible to secure funding and deliver a new hospital by 2030.”
In the wake of last week’s ceiling issues, local councillor and hospital campaigner Jo Rust has written to the recently appointed secretary of state for health, Steve Barclay, the MP for neighbouring North East Cambridgeshire, telling him the situation at the hospital is “simply unacceptable”.
In a letter which also went to North West Norfolk MP James Wild, she said she was writing regarding the “severity of the current situation at the QEH” in the wake of the temporary closure of three of the operating theatres due to “concerns about the structural integrity”.
“This situation is simply unacceptable,” she said.
She was also critical of the government’s delay in announcing its selected new build schemes saying “time and time again there has been delay after delay” with the decision now not expected until October due to the contest for prime minister.
Mr Wild said this week: “The closure of operating theatres further underlines the compelling case for QEH to be selected as one of the government’s new hospital schemes.
“When the Health Secretary joined me at QEH to talk to patients and staff he said he was reviewing the bids so decisions could be made after a new prime minister is in post.
“I’ll be urging them to do that as soon as possible and to avoid further delays.”
The crumbling hospital is to lose another senior member of staff following the news this week its chief operating officer is moving on.
Denise Smith said: “I have loved being part of Team QEH and will leave feeling very proud of what we have achieved over nearly four years together.
“The incredible teamwork and commitment to providing the best care for our patients makes QEH a very special place.
“I have every confidence that QEH has strong foundations in place and will go from strength to strength.
“I look forward to seeing the Trust progress in the next exciting phase of its improvement journey.”