Switchboard operator pulls the plug after 38 years at West Suffolk Hospital

Christine Fordham and the friends and colleagues she will miss  ANL-150223-231558009
Christine Fordham and the friends and colleagues she will miss ANL-150223-231558009
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Christine Fordham is leaving West Suffolk Hospital after a 38 year stay.

When she joined the staff in 1977 the hospital was so new she helped move the geriatric ward there from the old St Mary’s Hospital in Mill Road, where Christine was born 63 years ago.

She started as a house keeper aid (an assistant cleaner) and was promoted to housekeeper before moving to the switchboard in 1986 where she stayed until this week.

She says the hospital has changed a great deal since her early days there.

“When I first came the sister ruled the ward with a rod of iron,” she recalled. “She wore a special uniform with a starched cap so you could see who was in charge straight away.

“All the wards have changed, some places have shut but new bits have been put in.

“The switchboard when I started was plug and cord but now it’s all digital.”

Like most staff in the hospital she has had to work shifts so now she is looking forwards to more time to herself at home in Barrow.

“I’ve taken up quilting and sewing, so I’ll be making lots of quilts and bags and I’ve booked a nice holiday in Greece,” she said.

A divorcee, she has no children of her own, but is looking forward to spending more time with nephews and nieces.

But at her lunchtime leaving do she indicated all the colleagues around her and admitted: “What I will miss is this – the people, the camaraderie and all the support they gave you. If you were ill people called you and came to see you.”

But she has told the hospital that she will come back in for the occasional shift if they need her.

Probably the most unusual memory she has of the hospital was the time a racehorse visited. She believes it was the in early 1980s while the legendary jockey Lester Piggott was in hospital there.