A CHARITY that supports Malton Hospital has been given a huge boost in the form of a “sizeable” amount of cash back from a health trust which was at the centre of a controversial decision to close a ward shortly after it had been refurbished.
The Malton, Norton and District League of Friends, which has raised more than £2 million for patient care in its 34-year history, has been given the cash by NHS North Yorkshire and York.
The money had originally been donated to help to cover the Ryedale Ward revamp, which cost more than £1 million last year.
But the League’s donation was not needed in the end so health chiefs “in a sign of goodwill” have offered to hand it back.
Supporters were dismayed at the decision to close the ward after providing money towards the revamp as many feared it could have a knock-on effect on their attempts to raise funds from Ryedale residents.
Barbara Dimmey, the charity’s secretary, said: “Changes unconnected to the League meant that the cost of the alterations to Ryedale Ward had, in fact, been covered with other funds which resulted in our funds being surplus to requirements.
“We were given two choices, either to accept the money back or allow the funds to be used in other ways which were not under our control and not our decision to make.
“We do hope we still have the support of our members and others as we made the decision to accept the money back.”
The League’s chairman, Jezz Kipling, said: “We are waiting to see what is needed at Malton Hospital but the money will be put straight back into patient care.”
Battle lines were drawn early on with the temporary closure of the 20-bed Ryedale Ward while a six-month pilot scheme was trialled which saw sick patients treated at home.
The scheme was later scrapped following a review by independent experts but in June the shock decision was taken to close the operating theatres at Malton and Whitby because of concerns for patient safety with health chiefs facing a £500,000 bill to get the NHS-owned theatre back up to scratch.
On top of all this there has been ongoing uncertainty over a major shake-up of the health service including merger plans involving the Scarborough and North East NHS Trust with York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Mr Kipling, the charity’s chairman for the past four years, believes a merger would be a good fit for Malton Hospital.
He said: “There is a very positive future for Malton because we are between both York and Scarborough.
“They can fit the overflow of patients here. We would rather have a busy hospital and the car park overflowing than shut doors.”
The hospital’s busy Outpatients B department has just taken delivery of the League’s latest gifts.
Artwork by children from the Housemartins Day Care Centre in Malton now brighten the waiting room’s walls alongside new chairs, a flat screen TV and pictures from when the hospital was built in 1925.
Sally Sleightholme, department manager at Outpateints B, said: “It has made a huge difference.
‘‘It’s a lot more pleasant for people to come to the department now.”
The League raises money through donations as well as its successful charity shop on Wheelgate which accounts for 90 per cent of its revenue.
Fundraisers also play a key part, such as this Saturday’s garden fete at The Old Lodge Hotel, Malton, from 2pm to 4.30pm which will include a cake stall, raffle, bouncy castle, book sale, cream teas and activities.