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Leanchoil Hospital answers demanded

By Tanya McLaren

Answers demanded over Leanchoil
Answers demanded over Leanchoil

A local councillor has accused the NHS of hiding their real intentions about the future of Leanchoil Hospital, and is taking the issue ‘to the top’ to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Moray Council member for Forres Irene Ogilvie will ask Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon to come to Forres to get to the bottom of what is happening at the facility.

The hospital closed on January 2 after the failure of a generator, which resulted in thirteen elderly patients being moved to hospitals around Moray.

The facility has been closed ever since then, with patients put up in hospitals at Elgin, Dufftown and Buckie. NHS Grampian claim that necessary maintenance work is needed to bring it up to standard before it can re-open.

A petition is currently circulating in the town to ‘Save Leanchoil Hospital’ from closure and two public meetings have been held in Forres to discuss the topic, with the last one being attended by NHS executives.

Speaking at last week’s Forres Community Council meeting, Mrs Ogilvie said that she felt that the NHS were being less than truthful about the situation, which is causing great concern in the town.

“At that last meeting in Forres I felt that there were untruths in some of the statements being made,” she said. “What else can we do now? We have tried everything. I think that we need to take it to the top now. I intend asking Nicola Sturgeon to visit the area and press our case.”

The Leanchoil situation also comes at a time when care for the elderly is high on the agenda in Forres, with residents being moved out of Hanover Sheltered Housing which is being demolished, and concern exist over Meadowlark Care Home which is owned by the troubled Southern Cross company, and provides shelter for 60 residents, with the NHS occupying some of the beds there meantime.

Mrs Ogilvie’s concerns that necessary works to get the hospital re-opened had not even started were shared by Members of the Forres Community Council and by Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon in a recent visit to Forres.

Mrs Scanlon said that the NHS confirmd to her that Leanchoil would re-open with nine beds in September.

An NHS spokeswoman confirmed this to the ‘Gazette’ on Monday, but could not give a start date for the works to get underway.

“There has been a slight delay to the work starting because we have been getting costings and securing necessary last minute bits of paperwork,” she said. “There are very strict rules about how we have to do these things.”

She said that there was still an “absolute commitment” to open the hospital in September, but because of the delays could not give a definite date. She added that the costings were coming from the contractors who will be employed to do the work to bring the hospital up to scratch.

This follows a visit to Forres by Highland MSP, Mary Scanlon who held a meeting with Andrew Fowlie, General Manager of the Moray Health and Social Care Partnership, where she asked for an update about the proposed new health centre at Thornhill and the plans for Leanchoil Hospital.

“I came away feeling very reassured that at long last Forres is getting its long awaited-for and much deserved new health centre,” she said. “However, I still have grave concerns about the situation at Leanchoil.”

Mrs Scanlon said that Mr Fowlie had told her that the nine beds, which will be re-instated at Leanchoil, were currently being provided elsewhere, including Meadowlark, but she said she shares concerns voiced in Forres about the long term future for the building.

She also met with vice chair of the Forres Community Council Bob Hellyer who expressed his concerns about the situation.

Meanwhile at Thursday’s meeting of the community council, member Jim McDowell who sits on the patient participation group with the NHS told members that the NHS were looking at a plan by the Scottish Government to provide a new geriatric unit. He said a specialist has already been appointed and care nurses have been employed. He said: “We are pushing them to look at Leanchoil, which we feel would be ideal.”

He added that according to NHS costings it costs them £589 per week, equating to £120 thousand per year to keep a patient in private health care facilities, so providing an NHS facility would be better use of resources.

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