A Community Councillor has voiced concerns over plans to decrease the number of beds in Uist and Barra Hospital.
Andrew Walker, a resident of Benbecula, said that the hospital serves as a ‘waiting time’ facility for other hospitals in Stornoway, Inverness and Glasgow.
Mr Walker said: “Western Isles NHS Board has in its infinite wisdom decided to cut the number of patient beds at this hospital from 29 beds to 16 beds, a whopping reduction of 44%, without so much as a by your leave.
“When the Uist and Barra hospital was opened with a fanfare of publicity and much acclaim in 2001, to replace existing hospital provision at Lochmaddy (North Uist), and Daliburgh (South Uist), the bed complement in both these hospitals approximated to upwards of 46 beds.
“So, in a relatively short time-frame, hospital provision has decreased by about 30 beds.
“I venture to suggest that the fine building known as Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh, is not really functioning as we traditionally expect a hospital to function.
“It is a staging post for onward journey if you have a condition indicating acute medical needs.
“This notice seems to have fallen under the radar of our elected members, and does little credit to the management style of our NHS Board. Living in a modern-day social democratic Scotland, albeit in a remote and isolated island community, I expected to be properly consulted on all of the likely ramifications of such decisions.”
NHS Western Isles announced the plans in December, in a move to modernise healthcare services in the Uists.
“The decision to decrease the number of beds considered the average occupancy over a period of years, which came to 15 beds. Plans are to have 16 beds available at all times, with the option of 20 beds if they are needed at peak periods.
An NHS Western Isles spokesperson said that Uist and Barra Hospital hadn’t had all 29 beds occupied since May 2011. The hospital staff will not be reduced, and there are plans to provide additional training for current nurses to increase the proportion of senior and advanced posts.
A statement from NHS Western Isles read: “By rightsizing inpatient services to reflect patient need, there will be scope to make best use of staff skills and time, and space within the hospital.”
Further plans proposed the relocation of dental services from locations in Lochmaddy, Liniclate and Lochboisdale to the central location of Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh.
Mr Walker also said that the three existing residential care homes in the Uists and Barra currently operate with 100% occupancy, that respite bed provision has been cut, and that waiting lists operate.
He said: “Perhaps what is most needed at the present time, and increasingly as we move forward in the Uists recognising demographic trends, is additional Nursing Home/Social Care Home beds, and acknowledge that all complex and acute medical referrals are best served by referral to centres of excellence on the mainland.”