New £15m Cromer Hospital opens doors to patients

The long-awaited opening of a new hospital in north Norfolk took place on Saturday when the Cromer and District Hospital opened to patients for the first time.

Image caption The Cromer and District Hospital development includes a new theatre for eye surgery

The £15m hospital on Mill Road only came to being as a result of legacies from Sagel Bernstein, whose sister was cared for by the hospital and that of former patient Phyllis Cox.

The new building replaces the 1932 original on the site and has taken more than a decade to get off the drawing board.

Plans for a new hospital development in Cromer began in the late 1990s, but budget changes, moves to list parts of the original building and an investigation for bats in the roof meant construction work did not start until autumn 2010.

Although many years in the planning, Mary Northway, chair of Friends of Cromer Hospital, said it has been worth the wait.

"It's a very proud moment for Cromer," she said.

"We've had so many years of anticipation, more of perspiration and frustration and at long last we've the realisation now the project has materialised.

"It's going to make such a difference to the number of people who can be treated - it's a very welcome addition to the the town."

New facilities include an operating theatre for eye surgery, diagnostic services including a permanent on-site mammography service, DEXA scanner for the early diagnosis of osteoporosis and a paediatric audiology booth.

'Starship Enterprise'

Image caption Sagle Bernstein's millions had to spent in Cromer under the terms of her will

"It's a new hospital, but people are going to be treated by the same caring and friendly staff," said operational manager Helen Lloyd.

"The main thing we're incredibly proud of is what we've termed our Starship Enterprise - our ophthalmology theatre - where we do a lot of cataract extractions. People have been amazed by the amount of technology there."

Sue Peacock, sister in charge of ophthalmology at Cromer, said: "Although the old hospital is very much loved, we've had to live with what we've got.

"It'll be fantastic to go to a new department that is purposely designed for patients with visual impairments and equipped with the latest opthalmic technology that puts us at the forefront of the service we can deliver."

It is expected the new facilities will boost the hospital's patient numbers of more than 112,000 a year by a further 11,000.

It all became possible due to the legacy of Ms Bernstein, who left £12m to Cromer Hospital in her will in 2000 as a thank you to staff who cared for her sister Muriel Thoms.

Ms Cox, who had been a patient in the hospital in the 1950s, bequeathed £1.4m four years later.

As a tribute to the benefactors the new Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) will be named after Ms Bernstein and the Procedure Unit after her sister Muriel. The Audiology Unit on the first floor will be named after Mrs Cox.

'Original in Cromer'

One area of concern in the development has been the current hospital entrance which features the name of the hospital engraved in stone.

Image caption Cubical curtains have been designed in tribute to Cromer's seaside heritage

Project manager Dale Jackson said: "The gabled front entrance that everybody knows and loves is actually one of the first items to be demolished, but the stone facade that says Cromer and District hospital will be retained.

"We've got plans to make sure it is carefully removed in order to make a feature of it in a screening wall at the front of the new site. It's important for local people to have that link between the old and new."

Mrs Lloyd added: "We pride ourselves on being original in Cromer.

"The colour schemes in the hospital are designed to reflect the local area, the themes of the sand, sea and sky.

"The designers of our cubical curtains, of which we have many, came up with the idea of a beach scene - so when you come in to see the doctor and they draw the curtains you'll have a scene of deck chairs, crabs and the sea to look at."

The hospital is now opening in phases, with the Minor Injuries Unit the first department to transfer into the new building.

The ophthalmology department, day procedure room and treatment bays transfer on the 10 and 11 March, followed by the out-patient areas and audiology department on 17 and 18 March.

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