THE case for a new hospital on Barra will be considered as a matter of urgency if a case is made by NHS Western Isles, assured Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week.
However she stressed that the option for the facility was a matter for the local health board and the council.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan raised the subject in the Scottish Parliament last week and asked Ms Sturgeon what position the Scottish Government were taking on the need for a new facility to replace St Brendans.
The need for a replacement was also stressed by Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant.
Responding to Mr Allan, Ms Sturgeon said: “I give Alasdair Allan that assurance. As he is aware, I have had the opportunity to visit St Brendan;s Hospital. When I was there I was struck by two things; first, the excellent standard of care that is delivered by the staff who work in the hospital and secondly, the clear need for improvement to the physical facilities there. That case was made to me strongly.”
She outlined that the facilities there did not fully comply with standards for modern health and social care and said that redesign, modernisiation and possibly replacement were required.
She said the Scottish Government would continue to monitor the situation but that it was not currently under consideration as NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar needed to look at all the options and make a plan.
Rhoda Grant pointed out that there were major shortcomings in the existing facility that needed to be addressed urgently.
“It is not possible even to move trolleys around the building, because the corridors are so narrow. When the cabinet secretary is considering the matter, will she also look at the accident and emergency part of the hospital? There is no piped oxygen and the facilities are not really capable of dealing with some of the emergencies that come in.”
She added: “Although staff are not trained to do so, they need to hold patients while they wait for emergency retrieval teams to come. They must have the expertise and equipment that are required to keep people stabilised at that point.”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “Having been to the hospital, I have some sympathy with the member’s comments, but the decision is one for the local NHS and the council. I will ensure that the specific point that the member made about accident and emergency provision is fed back to the health board, to ensure that it is fully cognisant of the issue. I am sure that rhoda Grant is aware that the matter is not currently with me for consideration. The board and the council need to do a great deal of work on it; that is why they have agreed to undertake a formal feasibility study. It is right that they look at all the options. As I said in response to the constituency member, the Government will ensure that we continue to monitor any developments, as appropriate.”
Mr Allan commented: ““There is no doubt in my mind that St Brendans hospital in Barra does a great job, something which the Health Secretary put on the record in parliament. But she also agreed with me, and with NHS Western Isles that the current building is inadequate in many ways.
“I put it to the Scottish Government that replacement was the only long term answer. I was encouraged by her reply that, if NHS Western Isles come to her with a detailed bid following their current feasibility study, the government will give it serious and urgent attention.
“I believe that the community in Barra is right to keep up the pressure on this vital issue and I will certainly continue to campaign for a new St Brendans.”