IT was the end of an era at Frenchay Hospital last night as the Accident and Emergency department closed its doors to patients.
There were plenty of tears as nurses, doctors, paramedics and porters held an emotional blessing in the resuscitation area, where many lives have been lost and saved over the department’s 50-year history, before staff released white balloons outside the main entrance doors to the sounds of Take That's Rule the World.
Chaplain Avril Gaunt said: “We have spoken about our memories and what this building means to us and we are now at the moment where we are going to say goodbye to this building.
“May you have the strength and courage to continue the work you all do so well in our new building.”
The region’s only A&E department reopened at Southmead Hospital simultaneously with Frenchay’s closure, at 2am on Monday (May 19), half-way between a two-week transferral of services to a £420million new Brunel building at Southmead.
Dr Kirsten Jones, lead consultant for the Emergency Department (ED), told the Gazette: “Frenchay is really special to a lot of people. And a lot of people have worked here for many years.
“It has always had a really lovely warm atmosphere and we know that people who use Frenchay feel very fondly about it. But you cannot deliver healthcare based on nostalgia. These buildings are decrepit and although it is very sad to leave them, the new building will give patients a much better experience.”
Receptionist Rachel Carroll, 38, who has worked at Frenchay for five years, said: “It has a very homely atmosphere here, it isn’t at all cold or sterile.
“I’m sad Frenchay is closing because it has been great working here but I am quite looking forward to the new building.
“We are like one big happy family and I hope that moves over to Southmead.”
Earlier on Sunday, a service for 75 staff was held and candles were lit to remember patients and people’s time in the department. Staff also signed a door recounting their memories of the building including the words 'one door closes and another opens'.
ED matron Juliette Hughes said: “We remembered some patients who were very special to us and shared our happy and sad memories.
“Anyone who wanted to lit a candle and we have a big candle which we will take over to Southmead with us.”
Extra nurses and doctors were called in to ensure the move went smoothly, with a major trauma team based at both locations throughout the night and ambulances on divert to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Bath’s Royal United Hospital from 1am to 5am.
The very last patient to arrive by ambulance at Frenchay was 17-year-old Adam Willis, who had come off his Aprilia RS 125cc motorbike near his home in Pilning.
The teenager, who is close to finishing a public services course at Stroud and South Gloucestershire College, escaped major injury tearing ligaments in his thumb and walking away with muscle damage to his leg.
“I swerved to avoid a fox or a squirrel in the road and went down a dirt track,” he said. “There was a big metal gate and I decided to land the bike otherwise I would have hit it. It could have been a lot worse.”
Adam, who intends to apply to join the Army after college, added: “It is weird being the last patient at Frenchay. I have been thinking of all the many people who have had treatment here. There must have been so many injuries.
“It is a bit weird because Frenchay was built in World War Two and I want to go into the Army.”
The hospital, part of which was first erected as a sanatorium in 1921 and has been expanded over the years, will be knocked down to make way for new houses on the site. The new Brunel building at Southmead Hospital will be fully operational by May 28.