Gazette Letters 20-03-14

Alasdair Wanless from Gress submitted this striking image of a rainbow over Valtos Beach
Alasdair Wanless from Gress submitted this striking image of a rainbow over Valtos Beach

Less beds

Western Isles Carers, Users and Supporters Network (WICUSN) wish to comment on your article re the ‘Hospital Bed-Block Crisis’, something that from different aspects we have previously expressed concerns about.

Firstly, we would like to concentrate on the number of beds and compare what was available in 1992 when Western Isles Hospital opened and what is currently available.

When the Western Isles Hospital opened in 1992 there were: 72 acute beds; 120 care of the elderly; six Acute Psychiatry beds; 14 Maternity beds (12 operational). Total: - 212 beds. (210 operational)

Taking the six Acute Psychiatry and 14 Maternity beds out of the equation there were originally 192 beds for care of the elderly and acute care.

Compare that number of beds to what is currently available in Western Isles Hospital 2014: 72 acute beds spread between four wards - Medical Wards 1 & 2, Surgical Ward and Erisort Ward; 16 beds in Clisham Ward for Dementia care; zero beds for care of the elderly. Total: - 88 beds

This demonstrates that the total of acute and care of the elderly beds have been reduced from 192 to 88 equating to 54%, most of this reduction is in the last six to eight years.

WICUSN acknowledges that hospital care is the most expensive form of care and in this age of financial restraint it is a misuse of the public purse if used inappropriately, but equally we recognise that no one should remain in a hospital setting unless they are in need of hospital care, it is so wrong for anyone to have to spend any of the last days of their lives in a hospital setting unnecessarily.

WICUSN wonders what the saving has been in reducing the number of beds and where the money has gone?

To what extent did NHS Western Isles plan with their partners at Comhairle nan Eilean the shift of care provision for the elderly before they cut beds? It appears that we have the two authorities, NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, each guarding their own budget and power base with scant regard for the overall cost of care provision and most importantly the people who are in need of it .

Finally, it has also been observed that there has been an exponential increase of offices and office based staff at Western Isles Hospital which is slowly but surely turning into an office block.

It is time that the NHS Western Isles made public a full and detailed report of the rationale behind closing wards and beds if what they tell us is correct, that no or very little savings have been made. However, it appears to us that it would be a scandal if significant savings have not been made.

In our experience care in the community is fast becoming care by the community with many family carers on a waiting list, some for many months, for minimal basic respite.

Jinty Morrison,


3 Stonefield,


Isle of Lewis, HS2 9EA

Katie Morag influence

Driving past Traigh na Berigh (Reef Sands) in Lewis on a number of occasions last summer, I couldn’t help but notice at the amenity block car park several large refuse bins bursting to capacity, together with an overflow of rubbish-filled bin liners piling up beside them.

What an unwelcome introductory sight indeed for any visitor to a Western Isles natural attraction, made worse by this rotting refuse having to remain there for a further week, in addition to that accumulated before the next uplift, in the fortnightly refuse collection service.

According to the tourism professionals, these visitors are set to increase in number due to the exposure of the area in features such as the heartwarming Katie Morag TV series currently being shown nationwide, and which was filmed last summer on the Isle of Lewis. Reef Sands and the nearby village of Bhaltos were locations extensively used by the film crew.

With the certainty that more visitors translates into more rubbish deposited, might I suggest that during the peak tourist months of July and August the Western Isles Council could supplement their fortnightly refuse collection, so as not to disrupt their existing timetable, to popular visitor locations such as Reef Sands with an additional weekly evening run.

A further Comhairle related matter in the same area of Uig is the atrocious state of parts of the Bhaltos peninsula road, which as a result of last summer’s filming now forms part of the Katie Morag tourist trail. A route which some high-profile individuals are now planning to visit this coming summer, amongst them our country’s energy minister who we very much welcome.

On parts of this particular route the minister could be forgiven for thinking he’d stumbled on a geological fault line, causing the road to subside, crevasse and crater. But rather than geological, the true explanation is financial, in that no money is being allocated for repairing and maintaining the Bhaltos peninsula road. What is one to make of a Islands authority who’ve been gifted priceless ongoing (repeats) nationwide publicity for their area, but won’t reciprocate by providing an adequate road for the tourists they claim to be so eager to attract?

Sorry to be such a nuisance highlighting these issues , but it appears that some of the senior councillors who should be attending to them are more concerned with portraying themselves and the Comhairle as highly deserving recipients worthy of being granted further powers and autonomy over our island domain.

But unless those councillors and those who advise them show their willingness to use the powers already at their disposal to address the practical problems highlighted above, their vocal demands to be given more authority bear a striking resemblance to the posture of the aforementioned bins, mouths agape overflowing with rubbish.

Iain M Macdonald