Welwyn Garden City's QEII Hospital remembered
PUBLISHED: 13:24 19 April 2017 | UPDATED: 15:13 19 April 2017
With not a brick of the old QEII Hospital still standing, a Welwyn Garden City veteran has been remembering its 51 years of service to the town.
Former borough councillor Dennis Lewis, who came to the town in 1956, remembers the day Queen Elizabeth opened her eponymous hospital seven years later - July 22, 1963.
He told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “It was a glorious hot day. There was a great deal of excitement in the town. We had been angling for a hospital for some time.”
The old Cottage Hospital, now The Doctor’s Tonic pub in Church Road, had just 17 beds, although there was also a maternity hospital in the Peartree area.
Dennis, then working for ICI, watched in Parkway with his wife and two sons as the royal motorcade swept past and on to Howlands, where crowds stood six-deep.
The Queen was accompanied by the minister for health - one Enoch Powell, five years before winning notoriety with his Rivers of Blood speech.
The new facility’s name distinguished it from the many existing Queen Elizabeth Hospitals, some named after our current monarch’s mother.
According to Dennis,it was the very first hospital to be built by the NHS after its foundation in 1947.
In the years to come, Dennis’ two boisterous sons were routine visitors to the casualty department with cuts, sprains and breaks.
He told the Welwyn Hatfield Times last week: “I think we must have been their best customers.”
In 1968, Dennis had kidney stones removed by Mr Cassie, the hospital’s senior surgeon between 1975 and 1989.
Nine years later, he had even more reason to be grateful to the hospital when it treated his older son Ian after a very serious motorbike accident.
Dennis, who at the time was deputy district council leader, said: “He had broken his thigh, shoulder, and arm. His helmet was split in two on that terrible autumn day.”
In November 2010, the QEII was the scene of heartbreak for Dennis, whose wife Jill died there, within 24 hours of a fall.
Its closure in 2014, with key services relocated to Stevenage’s Lister Hospital, is bitterly resented by many, but Dennis is philosophical.
The 88-year-old said: “It served us well, and it is sad to see it go, but at the end of the day, it was just a building. What made it was the staff in it, and that tradition, I hope, will be kept by the New QEII Hospital.”
And health chiefs insist the controversial shake-up and rebuild have has been in the best interests of Welwyn Hatfield patients.
The East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group. which is based in Parkway, Welwyn Garden City, says it ordered the hospital reorganisation after “extensive consultation with local people, starting in 2007”.
A spokeswoman said: “The process has resulted in a building which is a bright and calming environment for patients. There are more than 400 light, bright rooms and patients have access to cutting-edge equipment including MRI and CT scanners.
“At the New QEII Hospital people are having life-saving cancer treatment close to where they live, while the Urgent Care Centre is treating patients with minor injuries and illnesses more quickly and conveniently than if they were queuing behind patients with life-threatening injuries at an A&E.
“The Urgent Care Centre GPs and emergency nurses regularly treat more than 100 people a day, and the centre is open day and night.
“In ambulatory care, the hospital is treating elderly and frail patients who need specialist treatment in a hospital setting but without the need for an overnight stay as people recover better at home.
“The Child Zone at the New QEII offers a purpose-built area for outpatient children’s services, providing an integrated model of assessment, diagnosis, treatment and support for children with a range of medical, psychological and social needs.”
Although the site of the demolished QEII Hospital has only just been levelled, more than 20 of the proposed homes have already been sold.
The first show home at the development will not be viewable until June, but Bellway Homes has revealed that 23 buyers have already committed.
Sales manager Jody Bryant said: “Bellway at QEII is proving popular among growing families looking for affordable homes that are set in tranquil surroundings.
“Buyers here are largely families, looking to step up the property ladder.
“We urge anyone interested in upsizing their home to come and see the development for themselves.
“We are here to help and delighted to discuss the possible part-exchange of prospective buyers’ current homes, enabling them to reserve a great new home in a desirable garden city.”
Advantages of the 163-home development,according to the company, include the quality of local schools and nurseries, the proximity of shops such as Waitrose, and lesisure facilities such as Mill Green Golf Course.
Prices start at £384,995 for a three-bedroom home and £486,995 for a four-bedroom home.