MORE than 1,800 people have signed the Henley Standard?s Save Our Beds petition in just a week.
Dozens of copies of the petitions have been distributed in the town as well as being printed for the first time in last week?s paper and again this week.
The petition calls on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to stick to the original promise to install 18 beds at the new Townlands Hospital.
The group is planning to axe the 14-bed Peppard ward and pay for the use of just five beds at the Orders of St John care home which is also being built as part of the £16 million ?health campus.?
The signed petitions will be delivered to the group at its offices in Cowley, Oxford, by the Henley Standard before the public consultation on its proposals ends at midnight on Monday.
On Saturday, a hospital bed was taken to Henley market place to encourage passers-by to sign the petition.
This was organised by town councillors David Eggleton, Kellie Hinton and Sarah Miller, of Henley Residents? Group.
Councillor Eggleton said: ?We filled about 15 petition forms so we are getting a good response. Most people knew what it was as soon as they saw the bed and came straight over to sign the petition. Everyone seemed a bit bewildered by the whole issue. They can?t understand why you would build a hospital and take beds out of it. We shouldn?t need the campaign because it shouldn?t have come to this. What should be happening isn?t and people can?t understand why.?
Christopher Peers, 82, a retired showbusiness agent and record label founder, of Bowling Court, Henley, spent six months at Townlands last year.
He said: ?We had a meeting at Phyllis Court on Saturday morning and a lot of the people there had filled in the petition.
?I personally had excellent care at the hospital and was looked after very well. I arrived in July and spent almost six months in hospital. Why doesn?t our MP John Howell come out and back this campaign regardless of the consultation? At the meeting all of us felt he should get involved immediately as it?s a very important issue.?
Lynne Alderson, of Lovell Close, Henley, whose mother was treated at Townlands after suffering a broken leg, said: ?I am delighted that the paper is initiating this campaign.
?The current downsizing of Peppard ward, after its temporary closure, is a major blow for the elderly people in the town.
?People with broken bones or hip replacements will need a spell of rest and recuperation for a few weeks. They can?t cook meals, make drinks or get themselves to the bathroom. I double-checked with my mother?s carer and she emphasised that they will not lift their clients. If they can?t walk to the bathroom, the carers can?t help as they haven?t got the equipment or manpower of Townlands.
?So saying that people can be ?cared for at home? is far from the truth. The staff of Townlands are in place, trained and dedicated. Why not keep this excellent team treating the people of Henley??
Jill Owen worked at Townlands hospital for more than 25 years before she retired in 2005.
She was a ward manager for Peppard ward as well as working in casualty and outpatients. Her daughter-in-law Lucy Owen is now a nurse at the hospital.
Mrs Owen, 72, a former Henley mayor and South Oxfordshire district councillor who now lives in Devon, said: ?The number of beds proposed is insufficient when we have an increased number of elderly patients in our community.
?Patients who require post-operative care or have a medical condition could be nursed at Townlands, thus relieving beds at the acute hospitals where demands are even greater.
?We hear of long waits in accident and emergency departments due to blocked beds on the wards due to lack of community care and rehabilitation beds for those patients who would otherwise be discharged from acute care.
?It?s not long-term nursing home care we want, what we want is post-operative care for people who will be going home but need care.
?If beds aren?t made available then the people who have operations like a hip replacement would have to stay in acute hospitals for longer until they are ready to go home. Before they would come to Townlands after a few days and we would get them back on their feet before they go home.
?The proposal is shortsighted and is not planning for the future when the elderly population will increase twofold.?
Maria Butler, of Stoke Row Road, Peppard Common, worked as a nurse at the hospital in the Eighties.
She said: ?I am not against the idea of looking after people in their own homes but I cannot see how the NHS and social services can find the money or resources to do this on a grand scale.
?To say that these beds are not needed is total rubbish to me. More and more people are living longer and getting older and many of them will need medical care.
?If there are no beds in the new hospital then the authorities cannot call it a hospital. A hospital is not a hospital without beds as far as I?mconcerned.
?When the Henley War Memorial Hospital was closed the people of Henley were promised that some of the money would be ploughed back into Townlands. The money never materialised.
?I am very angry that Townlands Hospital, after more than 30 years in the planning, has been vetoed by people who don?t live in this area and will never need to use the facility.?