Campaigners to reopen the Okehampton Hospital wards have launched a new initiative to create a book of residents’ memories of the hospital.

The memory book, entitled Okehampton Hospital Chronicle, will be presented alongside any petition or document used as part of the campaign, which campaigners argue will bring to life the importance of the hospital in residents’ lives to those with the power to reopen the wards.

“At the public meeting planned for Friday 12 April we will be asking people who attend the meeting if they would like to record a memory about the hospital,” explained Liberal Democrat Councillor Christian Martin. “We’d love people to bring photographs and mementoes and we’ll record their memories. The idea is to have a book, the ‘Okehampton Hospital Chronicle’, that we can present alongside any petition, or document, that brings home the personal importance of the hospital.” 

“As I’ve talked to people about reopening the wards I’ve come to realise this is not some abstract concept about health care provision. For local people this is personal,” commented Mark Wooding, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Central Devon. “I’ve talked with many people who were patients at the hospital, or who visited a loved family member or friend, often, sadly, in their final days. This hospital means something to people. 

“It’s too easy when we talk about budgets and waiting lists and staffing levels to lose sight of the human. There is always an individual story…That is why we are launching an ‘Okehampton Hospital Chronicle’. We want to capture peoples’ memories of the hospital, their loved ones and why it is important in their lives.” 

When the hospital was originally established huge support from the local community raised over £250,000 to provide equipment, facilities and services in the hospital, but the inpatient wards were closed in 2017 following a review which concluded that Okehampton Medical Centre was capable of providing the care instead. 

The public meeting will take place on April 12 at 19:30 at the Ockment Hall at the Ockment Centre in Okehampton.