Jill Murray, of Church­fields, Dartmouth, writes: 

I attended the meeting at Dartmouth Academy three weeks ago concerning the plan for the reorganisation of health care and the future of the Dartmouth and Kingswear Hospital.

It was obvious to me, and others, from the way this meeting was organised and set out, that both the town and hospital were being sold down the river. This meeting was not to obtain our views on ‘their’ plans, but to introduce us to what was already a ‘done deal’.

We were seated, not in rows, but at tables, each with two women conducting the procedures – one to lead the discussion, the other to take notes. The people at the table at which I was seated were mainly concerned with travelling to the ‘clinical hub’ at Totnes, the place the organisers had decided Dartmouth residents would have to attend to get medical attention, apart from seeing our local GPs – and we all know how pitifully lengthy and unsatisfactory a task that can be. Our table decided the ‘hub’ was being wrongly sited in Totnes. Dartmouth should be the ‘clinical hub’ for this area.

We have a population of about 7,000. Why should they be forced to travel on a woefully inadequate transport system to Totnes for medical help? And what about people living in outlying villages where there is only one bus a day?

People find it easier to get into Dartmouth than residents find it getting to other places. Our transport system is almost non-existent. Imagine having to attend Totnes Hospital for a 10am appointment. We’d leave home at 8am to be sure of getting there, and after the inevitable wait at the hospital, would have to start the whole rigmarole to get back home again. Waiting for a bus could take an hour, and then another hour for the return journey. A 10-minute appointment at Totnes Hospital would take half a day to attend.

And, if using private transport, where would one park? Totnes Hospital car park is minute and always nearly filled with staff and local workers’ cars. The only other car park nearby belongs to Morrisons, who would very quickly clamp down on hospital patients using its facilities.

Also, Totnes is one of the most traffic-congested towns in the UK, as anyone who drives though it regularly will know. Wonderful in an emergency!

At the end of the discussion period, each table was asked to put forward their most popular suggestion. The people I sat with said they wished the note-taking woman to put forward the suggestion that Dartmouth became the ‘clinical hub’ for the area, especially from the travelling viewpoint.

But not a word was said about making Dartmouth the area ‘hub’. I would have brought this to the panel’s attention had questions from the floor been allowed - but they weren’t. I wonder why? Would it be because each team of two women seated at each table had been primed to ignore contentious suggestions and stick to what the panel on the dais would be happy to comment upon?

In the Chronicle, September 30, there was an article urging residents to accept the plan the committee had put forward. In the Chronicle, September 23, there was another article about financing the whole scheme. Methinks this is all too smug! They must have sat and written the script for the whole scenario and complete outcome of their plans before booking the venue to put it to the public.

That week’s paper also stated they would only get in the region of £2m for the hospital site. Only? Who’s kidding who? I’ve made inquiries with London estate agents and property developers what such a prime site would be worth. It commands the best view in Dartmouth. The answers I obtained were that ‘at least £5m’ was much nearer the mark. If the old hospital has to go, then why not use that £5m to purchase some land on the edge of Townstall and construct a purpose-designed building to replace it. Make this building the ‘clinical hub’, providing beds for recuperating patients, minor injuries unit, X-ray department, plus doctors’ surgeries, etc.

And think of the money that could be saved by not leasing the River View Care Centre.

Incidentally, we were also told at the meeting that the hospital does not belong to Dart­mouth: it belongs to the NHS.

How did this came about? What about the original covenant on the building? And if it’s true that it belongs to the NHS, which is now saying the building is unfit for purpose, that means it has not been looking after it properly for its standard to have fallen so far behind that it feels it has no option but to condemn it from its intended use.

That also means the NHS can sell the old hospital for around £5m, £2m of which will contribute to the £16m shortfall is it says exists to enable it to put its unwelcome plans into practice.

I wonder what extra plans it would have for the surplus £3m it would almost certainly receive from the sale of the property? Would it spend it on a fleet of vehicles to transport patients to Totnes in the absence of an adequate public transport system?

Wake up, Dartmouth! This plan smacks of what Dr Beeching did to the railways in 1963, and from which we’ve been suffering the consequences ever since. Don’t be responsible for letting a similar catastrophe happen to Dart­mouth. Speak up now and demand some answers!

Where our hospital is concerned, remember Lidl’s slogan – When it’s gone, it’s gone!