Jobs threat at Oban hospital
ELEVEN clinical staff posts at Lorn and Islands Hospital are set to go in a bid to cut costs at the area’s largest infirmary.
Hospital bosses say there will be no redundancies, but insiders say there is a ‘ tangible reduction [through ‘natural wastage’] in staff numbers’ that will make the delivery of the ‘ high level’ of clinical care at the hospital ‘even more difficult to maintain’.
A hospital practitioner, who did not want to be named, spoke to The Oban Times in bid to ‘do the job NHS Highland isn’t’, in telling the community the truth about the ‘mass reduction’ in staff.
He also revealed plans to re- duce the number of beds in the hospital and create a medical reception area for patients ‘ in order to send people home rather than admit them’.
It was something, he said, that will ‘ fundamentally mean that the burden of care of seriously-ill patients will be on a dwindling community staff, and therefore onto family members ill- equipped to deal with the situation’.
The man added: ‘ Do not be misled by the florid talk of the hospital managers.
‘ This hospital is at serious risk from all the many reductions in staff.’
The longstanding staff member said: ‘ It has become ridiculous. We no longer have the time to do our jobs.
‘ The fact is plain and simple, we are bearing the brunt of the overspend in other areas. We need people to stop complaining about the hospital and to start getting active about making as much noise as possible to save what we have.’
Discussions on the future of the hospital have alarmed members of the integrated joint board – the organisation set up to merge health care and NHS Highland in Argyll.
In public and private, numerous board members say the health board is making sweeping changes while governance for the new board has still not been finalised.
Councillor Mary-Jean Devon, the former chairwoman of the integrated joint board, said: ‘Any job losses in the health service would be a major concern to me because, as it is, the staff are getting thinner and thinner on the ground and if they make it any thinner again we will be going to the cities for everything.
‘ We cannot afford to lose any more services from Oban.
‘ I would encourage everyone to get behind the staff of the hospital.
‘ Perhaps in the meantime everyone who has to travel to another hospital should be claiming expenses to show just how much it costs for people from this area to go elsewhere.’
A spokesman for NHS Highland said: ‘Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership’s strategic plan for 2016/ 17 to 2018/ 19 has identified six areas of focus, one of which is to reduce the number of avoidable emergency admissions to hospital.
‘ Within Lorn and Islands Hospital, work is currently under way to redesign the two medical wards and create a medical assessment unit.
‘ This is all part of a move to shifting the balance of care away from acute hospital settings and towards treating people in their own homes whenever possible.
‘ The creation of assessment beds will improve the patient pathway within the hospital.
‘ Following patient assessment in the [medical assessment] unit, a decision will be made to either discharge the patient directly home or admit them to the ward for further treatment.
‘Close links with the multidisciplinary teams, including physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker, together with the support of the local extended community care team, will help speed up patient discharge or transfer from the assessment unit.’
Confirming the cutting of beds at the hospital, the spokesman continued: ‘A reduction of eight inpatient medical beds will take place by October 2016 and a trial of four assessment beds is due to take place in August.
‘ Work is currently under way looking at the appropriate workforce levels for the unit in conjunction with staff.
‘ We are looking forward to working in partnership with the third sector and voluntary organisations to ensure patients receiving our services have a positive experience.’