An empty St Cross ward that was being used to store beds has been transformed into a new Haematology and Oncology unit, meaning many Rugbeians will no longer have to travel to Coventry to receive vital treatment.
The Maple Unit, which has five outpatient consultation rooms and nine day case treatment chairs, was made possible thanks to a £200,000 donation from the Friends of St Cross and an £845,000 donation from Coventry Hospitals Charity.
Patients have been able to use the new facilities for several weeks - but last week the Advertiser was invited to the unit’s official opening.
One of the key benefits of the unit is that many Rugbeians receiving chemotherapy will no longer have to travel to UHCW in Coventry.
Staff and patients were joined by Professor Andy Hardy, chief executive officer of UHCW, Dame Stella Manzie, Chair of UHCW, and representatives from the charities who helped to
fund the development of The Maple Unit.
Speeches were given before a crowd of staff and members of the Arden Angels - whose fundraising activities will go towards the unit.
Professor Andy Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of UHCW, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring a service to Rugby that has never been available in the town before.
“By providing this important patient care closer to people’s doorsteps in a brand new facility we will be able to provide a complete all round service which aligns with our existing services.
“The opening of The Maple Unit also further shows our commitment to Rugby and the Hospital of St Cross as well as our priority to put our patients first.”
Two key NHS staff behind the idea are Dr Beth Harrison, Consultant Haematologist and Sam Neale, Lead Nurse for Chemotherapy Services
Dr Harrison said: “It is really wonderful to be able to treat patients at The Maple Unit, it is such a lovely facility.
“The transformation from a disused ward to this special unit is incredible.”
Sam Neale added: “The opening of The Maple Unit is fantastic for our patients, expanding our capacity for treatment across the region.
“It is a fantastic addition to the care we provide at the Hospital of St Cross and continues our drive to deliver care closer to home for our patients.”
Dr Harrison gave the Advertiser a tour of the new unit, showcasing its smart, clean decor and its array of state-of-the-art equipment.
She explained that the facility is comfortable and relaxing for both patients and staff - boosting morale and making treatment more pleasant.
She said: “If you’ve got to come to hospital you may need to have conversations that may be difficult, and you may be given treatments that will be difficult.
“To come here and have a bright, welcoming environment which is airy, it just means that part of that experience is pleasant rather than unpleasant.
“I’m sure it has an impact, it has an impact on the staff morale and that also has an impact on the patient morale as well.”
Dr Harrison then introduced the Advertiser to a group of nurses who have been working at the facility for some weeks.
One said: “A lot of patients have said that they find it a really friendly environment.
“They say in Rugby it’s more relaxed because it’s a smaller hospital and they get more of a family feel.”
The unit has been designed with the future in mind – with plenty of capacity for more patients.
Dr Harrison explained: “The intention is to future-proof the facility.
“If we operating at capacity as soon as we had opened it would have been a bit of a concern.”