Plans for a new integrated health, social care, education and community facilities hub in Castlebay have been backed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
The Comhairle has already committed £7m to the development, which was originally outlined last year, and at a special meeting of the full council this week, chose an option for the development that would now see a new hospital and school campus being built on and adjacent to the exisiting Castlebay school site.
The development would replace the exisiting St Brendan’s Hospital with closure of the existing care home, and would see the closure of Eoligarry School, creating a new centralised primary and secondary school on the site, serving all of Barra and Vatersay.
The new centre would also offer new sports facilities and council offices, along with third-sector organisations, a new police station and community and college learning facilities.
The hub would include a rebuilt St Brendan’s Hospital along with new dental facilities, primary care facilities, and would create a new ambulance station.
A report on the options for the development stated that the key aim of the St Brendan’s Health and Social Care Project was to ‘facilitate the
development of a fully integrated model that delivers safe, effective and person-centered care by consolidating health and social care and ambulance services within suitable facilities’.
The existing care home would be replaced by eight units of ‘tenanted housing with extra care units and two flexible units’, and with a fully integrated health and social care team.
The plan, the report stated, would respond to ‘the changing needs of an ageing population located on a remote island’, and would provide a sustainable service by ‘driving out inefficiencies and minimising cost pressures
expected to arise by 2030/31 in relation to growing demand for services’.
Options for the developemnt will also be considered by NHS Western Isles, and proposals could see a wider range of health and care services being delivered closer to home, and would provide new facilities for the resuscitation and retrieval of patients, and the first mortuary facilities to be provided on Barra.
Commenting on the report before the full council, Barra and Vatersay, Eriskay and South Uist councillor, Donald Manford, said that the plan and the Comhairle’s chosen option supported “all community aspirations for a critical range of services supported by the Comhairle, NHS and Scottish Government”, and the new facilities were “aspirational not only for Barra and Vatersay but as a model for wider application in rural communities”.
The plan, Mr Manford stated had “momentum” and would happen to an “agreed timetable”.
Cllr Manford added: “Now is a time for looking forward and building a legacy for our children and grandchildren.
“It is clear this is a unique opportunity for Barra, not only in terms of health and education, but in terms of economic development;social regeneration; and investment.
“Our decision, while aspirational, must also be based on a realism in relation to funding, provision of public services and developments in community empowerment.
“This proposal provides Barra & Vatersay with not only a new estate, but an expanded range of services delivered in a new way I believe that is sustainable.”