At its meeting on Tuesday 3rd February, Benbecula Community Council discussed the decision announced by Westen Isles Health Board on 1st December 2014 to reduce the bed capacity at Uist and Barra Hospital, Balivanich, from 29 beds to 16 beds, and to consult on a proposal to relocate three existing dental practices at Lochboisdale, Lionacleit and Lochmaddy to the hospital in Balivanich.
Councillors were unanimous in their support of the published letter written by Community Councillor Andrew Walker to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-Being, Shona Robinson, MSP, copied to elected members.
The Community Council are also concerned and surprised that NHS Western Isles Board have chosen to proceed to implement this decision to reduce hospital bed numbers without any consultation.
In a statement they said: “It is presented as a fait accompli as though the views of local constituents, and existing/prospective patients, are unimportant.”
Councillors discussed the wider ramifications of this decision, and anecdotal evidence was heard about the negative impact, and high costs, associated with patients, some quite elderly, and children with parent, having to travel long distances for fairly minor procedures. Additionally the lack of residential care homes places and community-based health and social care services runs contrary to the Scottish Government agenda of “shifting the balance of care” from hospitals to the community.
They add: “This decision taken by the Board will inevitably result in staff redundancies, with no apparent consequential increase in community-based staff being employed.”
The Community Council also voiced concerns about the lack of funding for a Mental Health Outreach worker post beyond April of this year and the lack of a replacement MacMillan Nurse, after the departure of Lorna Senior on her retirement.
Benbecula Community Council will be writing to the Chair of the newly formed Association of Community Councils, Uists and Barra, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, requesting an early meeting to discuss the above concerns, which effect all Uist and Barra households.
NHS Western Isles say the plan is to modernise healthcare in the Uists and that there are no plans to reduce staff but to provide training for current nurses to increase the proportion of senior and advanced posts.