RECKLESS cable thieves have left one of Doncaster’s largest health centres without phone lines for nearly three weeks.
Bosses at the Field Road Surgery in Stainforth are concerned the problem could have serious consequences if a patient in need is unable to contact them because of the situation in which they have been left.
The phones first went down on June 10. In the meantime the centre has had its lines routed to a single mobile phone.
But the arrangement limits the centre, which serves 10,500 patients and employs nine doctors, to a single phone for the whole practice.
Health centre manager Paul Kemm said: “We are concerned for the patients who are trying to contact us but can’t get through.
“The cable thefts have affected other places in Stainforth too, but it seems to be patchy where has been affected and where has not.
“On the whole, people have been understanding.
“But we are concerned that potentially there could be elderly, housebound patients trying to get hold of us who cannot. The worry is there could be serious problems as a result of that situation.
“There could be serious consequences if a patient is seriously ill and cannot get through to us.
“We are really concerned that it has gone on for nearly three weeks. We have been cut off four times this year, but the phone has been back on in a couple of days on the previous occasions.”
BT says it is currently experiencing significant issues with cable theft across Doncaster, to the extent Crimestoppers have put up a £2,000 reward for information leading to convictions.
The firm has around 400 reported faults outstanding in the Stainforth area, and says its engineers are working around the clock to restore service. But because of the extent of the problem it does not have a fixed timescale for full restoration.
A spokesman said: “Engineering is proving extremely complex as the thieves took cable and joints which makes it extremely difficult to connect customers to the new replacement cables. The only way around this, and to avoid hundreds of crossed lines, is to painstakingly identify each and every pair of wires in the cables at either end of the stolen sections.
“We would like to offer sincere apologies to local residents for all the inconvenience this theft from the network has caused, and would like to reassure them we are doing everything possible to get service restored as quickly as possible.”
There have been 53 attacks on BT’s network in the Doncaster area since January. The public should report any information they have to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Police in Doncaster say they have launched an operation targeting people who steal metal and cable in an attempt to stop the problem in the borough.
Chief Inspector Ian Bint, who is leading the operation, said: “Metal theft is not just a problem in Doncaster, it is a national issue. People who commit these thefts do not realise the implications they have on the companies they are stealing from and the disruption it causes to the services for residents in Doncaster.
“This operation is aimed to specifically target the people committing these thefts but also ensure scrap metal yards and dealers are looked at to determine where the metal is being sold.”