News round-up: Skye dialysis boost, seafood for care homes, ferry concerns, and community cinema project

Rhoda Grant MSP.

“Leap in the right direction” for dialysis patients seeking treatment in Skye.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said she is delighted to see “a leap in the right direction” as NHS Highland is still committed to providing renal dialysis in the Mackinnon Memorial Hospital in Skye.

NHS Highland has told Mrs Grant that they have recruited qualified staff and that they are in the process of re-advertising three further posts.

They also revealed that they are confident they can secure two members of staff if accommodation can be secured.

They expect they can convert the day room in the Mackinnon Memorial Hospital as an interim solution in September 2020 and begin renal dialysis once staff have completed training.

Currently, due to Covid-19, the day room is being used as a staff room to allow staff to social distance and the District Manager has arranged a meeting with key staff members to see where this staff room can be re-located.

NHS Highland said it has purchased five dialysis machines and a Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Unit for this dialysis hub.

Rhoda Grant said: “This is a leap in the right direction and I’m delighted for the five patients who have had to endure travelling to Inverness from Skye and Lochalsh three times a week for years to receive treatment.

“This Covid-19 period reinforces the need for them to have the treatment closer to home.”

Mrs Grant continued: “I will continue to campaign for this vital service in Skye and I look forward to seeing the unit up and running.”

The labour member has been campaigning for a renal dialysis unit in Skye since October 2018.

She has started a new campaign to locate sight-saving services to the new Broadford Hospital after constituents – with sight disease macular degeneration – contacted her highlighting that they travel the 200-mile round trip to Inverness regularly for eye injection.

“Constituents contacted me asking if I could try to get these services relocated to the new Broadford Hospital so I wrote to the health secretary Jeane Freeman and to NHS Highland,” she said.

“At present, they have to travel to Raigmore Hospital for regular injections and I know the patients who are making this journey just now are not young and they have other health conditions so travelling the near 200 miles to Inverness and back is really hard for them.”

Ms Grant said the health secretary replied to her request stating the Scottish Government is exploring this option and awaiting “supporting data” from Raigmore Hospital.

Seafood companies team up to support Skye hospitals and care homes

Residents at An Acarsaid care home are among those being provided with smoked salmon as part of the new pilot.

The Isle of Skye Smokehouse and Mowi have teamed up to provide smoked salmon to staff at two hospitals and residents and staff of two care homes on the Isle of Skye.

In a four-month pilot, John Corfield, founder of the Isle of Skye Smokehouse, is smoking salmon donated by Mowi and delivering it to Broadford and Portree for NHS staff and two care homes.

Every two weeks, residents at An Acarsaid care home in Broadford and Budhmor House Care Home in Portree are tucking into hot smoked salmon delivered by John himself.

While 175 staff working at the hospitals in Portree and Broadford are also receiving smoked salmon to take home after their shift with some also being used to prepare staff lunches on site.

The pilot is a great example of how the business community has pulled together to support each other during the Coronavirus pandemic, as John explains:

“I am a microbusiness and I rely on tourism and hospitality. Before lockdown, I had invested in being able to offer a tour and tasting at the Smokehouse. Obviously, this is no longer possible.

“The bulk of my business is with hotels and restaurants and I was part of the team behind the Skye and Lochalsh Food Link van which delivers local produce to hotels, restaurants, and cafes around the island.

“When lockdown hit, it was obviously an anxious time for me and lots of food and drink producers on Skye.”

John sources all his salmon from Mowi and over the last couple of years has developed a really strong relationship with the team. John was approached by Ian Roberts at Mowi about how the two businesses could work together on a project that would also bring benefit to the local community.

John continues: “I am both grateful to Mowi for this project and extremely proud to be involved. This initiative is not only supporting me as a small business when most of my market has disappeared overnight, but it is also providing healthy local food to frontline staff and vulnerable people in Skye during a very worrying time. I’d say that’s a win-win.”

The hot smoked salmon is delivered in a combination of 120g packets to care homes and sides of salmon to NHS staff. The pilot, which has been running for four weeks, has received very positive feedback.

Lockdown has seen a marked increase in consumers looking to buy local and support local businesses.

Skye is no exception as John reports: “I am pleased to say that we were able to change the model of the Skye and Lochalsh Food Link van and start delivering to residents.

“We have more than doubled the number of food and drink producers using the Food Link van and we have established 11 hubs on the island for local people to collect their produce. It means we have even been able to supply quality fresh produce to local people who are self-isolating.”

Impact on islands discussed at ferry meeting

Ferry at Tarbert. Photo credit Robbie Shade.

Representatives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar met with CalMac’s community board chair, and Western Isles board members at the end of last week to discuss some of the pressing issues around ferry services changes.

The meeting assessed how the ferry service changes would impact the islands and how the views of residents influence that process.

Both the Comhairle and the Western Isles Community Board members agree that priority for travel going forward should focus on key workers, island residents and friends and family living on and from islands, maintaining a safe environment for all.

A range of ferry travel issues were discussed including foot passengers and booking arrangements, capacity for residents, health appointments, campervans, pet travel, and social distancing.

A further meeting is being held this week which will include Dr Alasdair Allan MSP and it has been stressed that it is critical representations to Transport Scotland on firm guidelines for ferry travel to and within the islands are made strongly by all.

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, chair of the Comhairle’s transportation and infrastructure committee said: “This was a very useful meeting. The Comhairle remains supportive of the communities board and greater use should be made of the board in terms of community consultation and in ensuring an accurate reflection of community views.”

CalMac Community Board Chair Angus Campbell said: “It is important that changes to ferry operations are clearly signposted as to how they will operate and who can travel ensuring maximum safety for passengers and ferry operations staff.

“We are seeking greater clarity from CalMac and Transport Scotland and I know the Comhairle has been in regular contact with these and other interested parties on the many issues surrounding ferry travel.

“We must maintain these discussions and clarity must be provided for communities.”

Skye’s ATLAS Arts to host community cinema project

Atlas Arts on Skye is among 24 projects from the Orkney Isles to Galashiels, to have received support from The National Lottery through Screen Scotland’s Cinema Equipment Fund towards the purchase of new equipment to host accessible community cinema across Scotland.

In line with the Scottish Government’s latest Covid-19 guidance, all 24 projects can now begin plans to get up and running and welcoming audiences, as soon as they’re able, from Wednesday 15 July.

ATLAS Arts plan to purchase new film projection equipment to support the relaunch of a regular discursive and artist moving image programme of film and film exhibitions on the island of Skye, with cross-community collaboration at its core.

The cinema equipment will be a community resource aiming to build cross-island cinema engagement, supporting existing community film projects on the island with free access to equipment and resources, and working with local cultural spaces on connected programming.

Ainslie Roddick, Atlas Arts said: “Purchasing this equipment marks an important step for ATLAS as we start to support and instigate new ways of working around Skye and Lochalsh, not only creating our own arts projects but working alongside the many vibrant cultural spaces and community organisations around the island to connect our collective cultural experiences.

“This equipment will be in constant use with local film clubs, community halls and other organisations, with ATLAS also using it to create complementary programmes with these organisations and groups over time.

“We’re also looking forward to developing long term moving image exhibitions and projects without the huge expense and labour of rent from the mainland.”

Keeping you up to date

Local news about local heroes: Although we’re not returning to your newsstands or shop shelves just yet – we’re back in print from 7th August – you can keep up to date with all the latest news across the west Highlands and Islands via our website – including stories on the fantastic community initiatives taking place across our readership area.
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