A new medical centre opened its doors yesterday – two decades after locals first hatched a plan to get it built.
The £7million Crimond Medical and Community Hub will replace the existing medical practice within the tiny village and cater for the parishes of Crimond, St Fergus, Rathen and Lonmay, and the villages of St Combs, Inverallochy and Cairnbulg.
Yesterday afternoon an invited audience of the scheme’s backers and supporters gathered for the fornal opening of the building.
It is expected to receive its first patients in September
The project began about 20 years ago when locals began campaigning for a new surgery.
They had feared that the existing facility, a tiny bungalow to the south of the village, would not meet the demands of the nearly 4,000 people living in the region.
The project was backed by Peterhead firm Score Group plc, which agreed to underwrite the construction costs of the building.
The firm’s founder Charles Ritchie, who also launched the Crimond Charitable Trust which spearheaded the fundraising efforts of the new practice, said: “We’ve finally got here.
“It’s been a long journey. Twenty years ago we decided we will have a better surgery and this is the end result.
“We don’t want to rely on fast ambulances driving us 100 miles away, and that’s not going to happen.”
Mr Ritchie said the new facility would be the envy of other communities in the UK.
“And it has all been done by local tradesman,” he added.
“Every penny that has been spent here – of the approximately £7million that has been invested – has been invested locally.”
The new facility has an inclusive pharmacy, cafe and even fitness suite.
Clan Cancer Support has also been provided with office space and other rooms will be available to hire on request, or rent for start-up businesses.
A granite monument has been constructed outside which will pay tribute to former doctors and staff in the years to come.
Mr Ritchie added: “This is different from the way other things are done. From the minute we agreed to underwrite that, subject to the planning permission of course which was a nightmare, we started to build it.
“This will work as a hub for these seven parishes. That’s the name of the game.
“It’s a pity we can’t have it for the rest of the folk in the north-east of Scotland – we’d like to – but we haven’t the bawbees.
“I looked forward to a trip to Glasgow in a super ambulance with horror, but fortunately me and my trustees are in a position to do away with super ambulances by creating this locally.”
He also paid tribute to the staff who will begin making use of the building, saying that without them the exercise would have been for nothing.
Peter Chapman MSP, who had the honour of opening the new centre by unveiling a commemorative plaque, said that the event was “a perk” of being an elected official.
“What a stunning building this is, and what a great asset this will be to the folks of Crimond and round about,” he added.
“We really have one man to thank, especially, for this. And Charles Ritchie is the unstoppable force that made this iconic building a reality.
“This building grew to fruition as the result of his drive.
“Others have contributed money to this project but the Ritchie family and the Score Group are by far and a way the biggest contributors to this today.
“What a great addition to this community here when money and resources within the NHS is tight.
“This place screams quality.”
Equipment for the new facility has been part-funded by the Crimond Medical Fund group.
At yesterday’s launch, chairwoman Ann Bell described the new facility as “wonderful”.
Construction started in 2012, when land was secured to the north of Crimond.
Delays, however, pushed back its “soft” opening date from Christmas 2016 to yesterday.