A NURSE has slammed moves to close a hospital ward for two months.
Staff on Sapphire Ward at Ellesmere Port Hospital are being re-deployed until the end of March.
The closure has been caused by an employee overspend, but health chiefs stress patient care won't be affected.
The nurse, who has been working at the Chester Road hospital for around 10 years but doesn't want to be named, said: 'I'm quite angry about this.
'We have limited resources and have to prioritise needs. But it's terrible having to do that.
'For example, I've had to stand in front of patients and tell them they can't have a profile - an airbed that relieves pressure sores on bed-bound people - because we don't have the money.
'Yet I wonder what Ellesmere Port & Neston Primary Care Trust (which runs the hospital) are spending on things for themselves, like carpets.'
The nurse issued a rallying call for the people of the Port to support their cause.
She explained: 'This is a community hospital, paid for by our taxes. I'm sure residents don't want to lose it. There's no time for complacency.
'We do all sorts of different things here that I'm sure most people don't know about - like x-rays, phlebotomy (blood) tests, eye checks and lots of clinics.
'We should all support the hospital and ensure there are no more ward closures or cuts.'
Sapphire is a 21-bed orthopaedic unit providing rehabilitation for patients who have had operations such as hip replacements at the Countess of Chester.
A PCT spokeswoman said: 'We routinely hire bank/agency staff to cover periods when our nurses are off sick or go on holiday.
'However, a new NHS pay structure has increased annual leave for some nursing groups and we've had to hire the equivalent of 15 full-time staff to safeguard the welfare of our patients. This means we are overspending our bank/agency budget.
'We found some patients were staying on Sapphire for more than 100 days when they could have been discharged into a nursing home or their own homes.
'As a result, we decided to temporarily redeploy staff on to our other three wards for two months.
'Patients will continue to receive the care they need but move on to more appropriate care more quickly.
'No PCT staff will be made redundant and we'll reduce the amount we spend hiring temporary nursing cover.
'Staff will be re-deployed to the other wards shortly and we will monitor the situation, on a daily basis.'