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Chesham's Healthzone to open its doors this month
Residents of Chesham have eagerly awaited the opening of the £6million Healthzone since the closure of the town's hospital in 2005. However, an opening date for the promised replacement kept getting pushed further and further back, leading many people to believe the new medical centre in Berkhampstead Road would never open its doors.
But Christmas is coming early for the town with the announcement that the new facility, which has been named Chess Medical Centre, is scheduled to open its doors on Monday, December 12.
The two surgeries moving into the Healthzone, The New Surgery in Lindo Close and The Surgery in Gladstone Road, have announced they will close their doors on Friday next week and be up and running in the centre on opening day.
The news has delighted the Mayor of Chesham, Councillor Derek Lacey, who campaigned against the closure of the hospital. "I never thought it was going to open," he said. "I'm over the moon.
"We've waited all these years and it has been pushed back and back. When they open the doors I will finally believe it, as we've been promised so many times.
"I really am pleased. At last we are getting the facility we were promised, not the full facility, but we are half way there."
The news also brought a smile to the face of county councillor Noel Brown, who is also on Bucks public health overview and scrutiny committee. "I'm certainly very happy that at long last it's opening," he said. "It's not going to be what we were initially promised after the closure of the hospital but it's a good modern facility that is good for health care opportunities."
Mr Brown recently went on a tour of the new Healthzone. "It's a superb building with lots of space for the doctors," he added. "I was surprised to learn that the doctors are being opened as separate surgeries, with one side for The New Surgery and the other for The Surgery. At least they are together and I hope they find ways of working together more closely.
"It's a great opportunity and I just hope our new health bodies work out a way to make the most of it. The people of Chesham need it and I find it very hard to accept that people on one side of the valley live five years shorter than on the other side of the valley.
"There are some health issues that need looking at and I hope this provides an opportunity to take things forward a bit better."
Despite being happy about the Healthzone finally opening, the councillors feel it is not a replacement for the cottage hospital, as initially promised.
"It won't replace the hospital, which we all thought it would," explained Mr Lacey. "We never realised it would take this long to build. You would of thought they would have done this first and then closed the hospital, but I suppose that is too easy."
Mr Brown added: "It's not going to replace what the hospital had, the hospital looked after the older people and offered respite care but you now have to go to Amersham for that, which is not convenient if you live in Chesham."
There are some facilities that Chesham hospital had that the new centre will not be have, including an X-ray department, in-patient beds unit, physiotherapy and respite care.
Mr Lacey explained the three things he would like to see in the centre were a bedded unit, a podiatry department and an out-of-hours doctor.
"I'm a bit annoyed because we were promised a podiatry unit," he added. "Every other Friday I have to go to Stoke Mandeville to have my feet dressed. I was told we were going to have one open in Chesham but it's not going to be. There are a lot of old people who have to have their feet dressed and go to Amersham or Stoke. Thank God I have a car.
"What we really want, and no one can say yes or no, is an out-of-hours doctor. At the moment you have to go to Amersham or Wycombe. I'm just hoping we get one."
Mr Brown is also hoping a district nurse will be based at the centre and has heard this could be possible.
Confirmed facilities at the centre, which is due to be officially opened in January, are The New Surgery and The Surgery, 14 consulting rooms, 10 multi-purpose clinical rooms, three treatment rooms, 34 special treatment rooms and a pharmacy.
It is also believed the centre will offer blood-testing services and there is also a rumour of a NHS dentist opening.
The councillors explained that talks about the Healthzone began when the hospital closed. NHS Buckinghamshire initially put on its website that building was to start in January 2009, with the centre completed by May 2010. However, a date for building work was then changed to January 2010, with work actually starting in September 2010 after vital contracts between after NHS Buckinghamshire, the two Chesham GP practices and the appointed developer were finally signed.
A completion date was then given for October 2011, but councillors and residents became angry when this was again pushed back to December 23, 2011.
It looks like a happy ending is finally in sight for Chesham, with the centre due to open nine days earlier than the last estimated finish date.
l What do you think? Will you be pleased to finally see the centre open? Do you think it is an adequate replacement for Chesham Hospital? Email email@example.com.
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