BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
Despite critics in north Skye concerned at what they see as the downgrading of Portree Hospital, south Skye councillor Hamish Fraser has urged the whole area to get behind the building of a new facility in Broadford.
On Tuesday of this week NHS Highland confirmed that they would be pressing ahead with their preferred option of developing the main ‘hub’ hospital in Broadford and the ancillary ‘spoke’ in Portree.
“We must all unite on this and not jeopardise progress on this new facility,” Mr Fraser said. “This is for the whole area and, as the scrapping of endoscopy services at Broadford showed, we have a lot to lose if we don’t get this right.”
While in favour of a new facility in Broadford, Ross Cowie of local charity Lucky2BHere — who is also a spokesman for the North Skye Action Group — said that although NHS Highland denied Portree operated an A&E service, the road-signs in the village all carried that information.
He added: “Tuesday’s decision to locate a new hospital in Broadford is to be applauded. But how the board of NHS Highland were able to manipulate the closure of Portree Hospital — leaving no beds, no A&E and no doctor on duty 24 hours in the north of Skye which will, undoubtedly, result in the loss of life — beggars belief. I hope they will stand accountable.”
Mr Cowie also said that the beds in Portree Hospital were all occupied by elderly people, and he asked where they were supposed to go once the beds were axed.
NHS Highland have stressed that Portree Hospital will not be closed, although it will lose its in-patient beds and X-ray facility.
In making their announcement on Tuesday, the health board considered a detailed report on the three-month public consultation on the redesign proposals. This showed that 2,273 people completed a survey as part of the consultation, with two-to-one in favour of Broadford as the location for a new ‘hub’ facility. Fifty-seven per cent were in favour of the hub being in Broadford and the spoke in Portree, whereas 29 per cent supported Portree as the location for the hub.
The new Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Shona Robison, will be asked to make a final decision. A ‘business case’ process would then have to be followed, and an ‘initial document’ would need to be prepared and submitted to the Scottish Government’s capital investment group.
Garry Coutts, chair of NHS Highland, described this week’s decision as “historic” and said detailed planning for the new facilities would now get under way.
He said: “We have reached a crucial stage in the redesign of services in the area. Our public engagement and consultation has been both lengthy and thorough, and we are satisfied that we have reached a decision that best reflects the needs and aspirations of the entire community. I am delighted to recommend it to the Cabinet Secretary.
“Understandably, there has been some controversy around this issue. People have approached it from various perspectives, and our job has been to try to arrive at a consensus view on how best to reshape our services.
“We have done so with the interests of the entire community at heart and would ask everyone in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross to pull together behind this decision. With their continuing help, I am confident that we will provide first-class healthcare and social care facilities and services that are fit for the 21st century.”