No guarantees on long-term future of hospital services
A PACKED public meeting on Friday night seemed to appease the public on the future of Lorn and Islands Hospital.
However, critics were still not convinced the promised ‘openness’ from management would materialise and felt they did not receive a confirmation that services at the hospital would continue to be guaranteed.
The meeting was called by Oban Community Council and chaired by Marri Malloy to discuss concerns raised by members of the community on the ‘decreasing number’ of services provided at the facility, one of only six rural district general hospitals in Scotland offering specialist services across the field.
The platform party included Christina West, the chief officer of Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP); GP and primary care clinical lead Dr Richard Wilson; and clinical lead Peter Thorpe; alongside Mrs Malloy; community council secretary Andrew Vennard; and Councillor Mary-Jean Devon.
Mrs Malloy said concerns had been raised by the community about the high number of people who have to travel to appointments in Glasgow.
A letter by former clinical lead at the hospital Andrew Henderson was read out stating his concerns that the service in Oban would be ‘eroded away’ and further cuts to services should be avoided.
Ms West explained that the hospital and community servic- es provided by the HSCP was facing a ‘funding gap’ of £22 million in the next two years.
In order to develop solutions for the shortfall, Lorn and Isles Hospital had set up a review board which had met twice. On both occasions the group was considering the services that were being provided and how they could be made to be sustainable.
Mr Thorpe said: ‘The review group is not about bed management or about closing beds. It is there to examine how we are best to offer the services patients need.’
Mr Thorpe confirmed that about 50 per cent of patients have to travel to appointments in the Glasgow area, but he was unable to give the number of emergency patients taken to Paisley or Glasgow.
Concerns were raised at the meeting about the recruitment of consultants and staff, and the openness of the board.
A straw pole of attendees confirmed no- one was aware of the review group or its terms of reference. Indeed, even elected members were unaware of who was on the group, and one member asked who was representing them.
After the meeting Mrs Malloy said: ‘The turnout of the public was excellent. But in fairness they did not know what was go- ing on before they came to the meeting so probably not enough relevant questions were asked.
‘I don’t feel the panel were pushed hard enough.
‘The community council does not intend to allow this issue to disappear into the hands of a select group to make decisions. The public have to know what is happening to the hospital now, not after the review, when it will be too late.
‘This is the reason I have asked Neil MacKay to lead an activist group in the hope that this sub group will feed into the review group.’
Councillor Elaine Robertson told the 500 plus-strong crowd at the meeting on Friday that she had been asked to take up a position on the board.
It is understood there had never been any open elections.
Other board members were hand-picked by Annie Macleod, locality manager, who was unable to attend the meeting due to lack of notice from the group.
A spokesman for the HSCP said: ‘We are committed to working closely with the local community, staff and other stakeholders to ensure that they are involved and informed and can feedback in to the overall process.
‘ We will also be setting up a local communications and engagement group which will have wide representation from the local community and this group will work closely with the Project Group in relation to engaging with the public.’