Broadford hospital, the new £20 million facility built to serve Skye, Raasay, Lochalsh and South West Ross, was officially opened today by the Scottish health and social care secretary Humza Yousaf.
In a ceremony at the new building – completed as part of a £40 million package which also involved a new hospital in Aviemore for Badenoch and Strathspey – Mr Yousaf said the development illustrated the government’s commitment to rural healthcare.
However, the opening comes amid significant concerns about staffing in the health service.
Of the 24 hospital beds in the new facility, just 12 are currently being made available for admissions because a number of vacancies have not yet been filled.
The urgent care centre in Portree has also faced closures due to a lack of staff.
Health officials and the cabinet secretary acknowledged that there were “challenges” that needed to be addressed around housing and rural training places.
One potential solution now being actively considered is to convert Broadford’s former MacKinnon Memorial Hospital into staff accommodation.
NHS Highland, however, re-iterated that it has no plans to close Portree Hospital, at which there is provision for an additional 11 beds.
Humza Yousaf said: “I am committed to delivering a healthcare system that is fit for purpose and puts the needs of patients at its heart. This new hospital in Broadford offers a much more inviting environment for not just the patients who will use it, but the health care professionals and staff who work tirelessly for the people of Skye.
“It is the second community hospital I have had the privilege of opening in NHS Highland in as many weeks, and it has been a pleasure to see first-hand the benefit they are already bringing to the people of the Highlands.”
Professor Boyd Robertson, NHS Highland Chair, who lives in Skye, said: “This is a historic day for the communities in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross and marks a new era of health care on Skye, Raasay and the neighbouring mainland.
“We are delighted to welcome the Cabinet Secretary back to Highland for the second time in a fortnight to open another of our splendid new community hospitals.
“Similar to the new facility in Badenoch and Strathspey, Broadford Hospital/Ospadal an Àth Leathainn will play a key role at the heart of the local communities for many years to come.”
Pam Dudek, NHS Highland’s Chief Executive, said: “The new hospital has been open to patients since March and is already playing its part in delivering high-quality person centred health and social care to people in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross.
“I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this exciting process which will future proof the delivery of services across such a diverse, remote and rural area. The investment in two community hospitals in Badenoch and Strathspey and Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross underlines our commitment to delivering services as close to home as possible.
Paul McGirk, Executive Chairman of hub North Scotland, who are NHS Highland’s development partner, said: “This is the second community hospital we have successfully delivered for NHS Highland recently which has helped make these communities more resilient by transforming their health care delivery.
“There has been an excellent partnership approach by all those involved, and I must thank the Broadford community for their valuable support in helping us meet the challenges of continuing works during the pandemic.”