A STRUGGLING West Cornwall hospital has closed a ward "in the interest of patient safety and staff care".
The suspension of services at Poltair Hospital will continue until Monday, March 12.
The move is aimed at enabling the Madron-based community hospital to reach a "complete resolution" to the staffing problems that have hit the hospital in recent months.
In a statement, Peninsula Community Health, which took control of Poltair from the NHS last year said: "The difficult decision to close the ward was taken in the interest of patient safety and staff care.
"By Monday, March 12, newly-appointed nurses will have worked out their notice period with current employers and been inducted to Peninsula Community Health ready to receive patients onto the ward at Poltair."
The Cornishman reported last October that the hospital closed its doors to new patients due to a staffing crisis less than two weeks after it was taken out of the NHS.
And again in December admissions were stopped because of employment issues.
"I fear for the hospital, I really do," said Carolyn Rowe, chairman of the League of Friends of Poltair and West Cornwall Hospitals. She used to manage the centre when there were 26 beds. Now there are ten.
"I am very sad for Poltair, I think the staff think it is a bit of a hopeless case."
And when asked if there were fears the ward would never reopen, she said: "I think it probably won't but that hasn't been said yet and we can't fight something that hasn't been said. We have to watch this space."
The statement added that the remainder of the hospital continues to operate as normal with nine clinics open to out-patients.
Kevin Baber, chief executive, has been in discussion with key stakeholders to update them on developments.
"Hiring, firing and staff sickness are all part of normal operational management challenges and three closures in the first five months since the company has taken over the service won't impress or reassure anyone," said MP Andrew George who campaigned against the move away from the NHS.
"I am sure the local community will expect the service to be managed in a way that staff sickness, which is bound to happen, doesn't cause the service just simply to shut down."
Peninsula Community Hospital would not comment on how many staff and patients had been on the ward before it was closed.