Nurses cooked patients microwave meals from Co-op

Portree Hospital, Portree.

Patients at an under-threat north hospital have been forced to eat ready-made meals – bought at a local Co-op and cooked by staff.

Claims have also been made that Portree Community Hospital is also facing a cleaning staff crisis, with back-up regularly sent from Broadford Hospital to stand in.

Campaigners fear the hospital is deliberately being downgraded while a review of healthcare services on the island is carried out, believing Portree has already been earmarked for closure.

Last night, NHS Highland downplayed the concerns but admitted microwaved meals had been served up to patients due to a broken oven.

A spokesman acknowledged there was a problem recruiting cleaners, but stressed the health board is “actively recruiting” to fill the vacancies and is “working hard towards being able to increase inpatient provision pending the Skye Hospital redesign”.

The revelations come just days after it emerged there was only one doctor on duty at the community hospital, prompting warnings lives were being put at risk in the event of a major emergency in the north and west of Skye.

The health board has previously admitted that nurses were regularly being asked to cook meals for patients because of staff shortage, but last night campaigners said they were shocked to hear staff had been tasked to buy microwave meals from the local shops.

Councillor John Gordon claimed Portree Hospital was being downgraded in a way that lacked “compassion, care, professional standards” and showed a “complete disregard for a rural area”.

“The staff morale is low and the fault lies firmly with the incompetent management. If this was a business those managing would have been out the door a long time ago,” he said.

“The staff at the hospital are exceptional. We don’t want to lose them and they deserve better.”

He called for an investigation into the management at the hospital.

Mr Gordon claimed a number of elderly constituents had been in touch, seeking reassurances that if they ended up in hospital there would be staff – and now food.

“It is scandalous that our communities have to worry about the very basic,” he said. “We in the north end of Skye were alarmed when nurses had to cook.

“But to think there are staff are going to the Co-op for microwave meals, what a way to run a hospital?”

An NHS spokesman said: “There was plenty of food in the hospital. The oven broke down when it was switched on so lunch couldn’t be cooked.

“The three patients in the hospital were asked what they would like instead and a nurse went to buy food which could be microwaved instead in order to ensure that patients could receive a hot meal.

“The external sourcing of food is a contingency plan in place for the hospital in the event of problems such as this.”

The spokesman stressed that as per the contingency plan in the event of severe staffing shortages, cleaners from Broadford had been asked to also cover Portree – using NHS transport to get there.

He added: “We are proactively working to resolve the staffing issues which remain, and review the situation on a very regular basis to determine whether it is safe and feasible to re-open beds. We are actively recruiting to vacancies and working hard towards being able to increase inpatient provision pending the Skye Hospital redesign.”

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