Supporters of Sidmouth Hospital took up the hammer and chisel to begin work on the final stage of major renovations that are a quarter of a century in the making.
Members of the Comforts Fund committee, councillors and former doctors attended a ceremony to mark the start of the work on Monday.
The £1.2million revamp will be carried out by Skinner Construction as part of the health hub’s commitment to support the town.
Comforts Fund chairman Graham Vincent said: “It’s fantastic to have had the support of the local community.
“In 12 months we believe our hospital will be among the best community hospitals in the country.”
He and the other trustees are appealing for more than £250,000 in the next year, and they have always been supported in the past.
“You’ve got to aim high,” Graham said.
“In 1989 we agreed that the hospital needed a massive upgrade, not only to take it into the 21st century but for its survival.”
Comforts Fund vice-president Judy Bashforth picked up the tools for the ceremony.
She said: “I’ve been on the Comforts Fund for 32 years – it’s brilliant to have it all finally come together.”
Andy Ridler, a former doctor who was on the Comforts Fund for 30 years, added: “Over the years we’ve struggled to keep it going but it’s still very much part of the community and very much supported.”
Skinner Construction has the task of minimising disruption to patients and staff, all the while maintaining the original Victorian exterior.
Phil Tucker, the company’s managing director, said: “We were delighted to get the contract – it was so competitive.
“Our chairman, Colin Mayor, wouldn’t have been able to drive past if another builder’s sign had been outside.
“All we need to do now is deliver what we promised – and we will.”
His company worked on the second stage of the project in 1991.
The latest developments include a new physiotherapy department, rehabilitation unit and gym area, along with a canopied entrance with reception.
The fifth and final stage of the revamp is scheduled to be completed by next June.
Article courtesy of Sidmouth Herald.