Hundreds of residents gathered in Banff yesterday to hear health chiefs announce plans to slash overnight care at their local hospital.
Four options, including closure, had been detailed for the future of the town’s Chalmers Hospital as part of a review of minor injury units (MIU) across Aberdeenshire.
And at a public consultation event in the town’s Harvest Centre, officials from the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership unveiled their preferred option.
They believe that reducing its hours of operation will ensure the hospital remains sustainable going forward.
Four options were presented at the event – leaving the MIU as it is; closing it completely; operating between 8am and 6pm, seven days a week; or operating from 8am to late evening, with the time to be agreed with GMED and the ambulance service.
Residents in Banff feared operating hours would be chopped following the review and although relieved closure of the unit is not on the cards, have nonetheless expressed concern at the decision to operate between 8am and 6pm only.
It was revealed in papers to the Integration Joint Board that between August 2017 and January 2018, staff at Chalmers Hospital MIU saw 1,890 patients.
Of those, just 353 visited between 6pm and midnight and 82 between midnight and 8am.
Dr Janet Anderson was a GP for years in Banff before taking up the role as chairwoman of the Friends of Chalmers Hospital.
Following yesterday’s meeting she said she could see the logic in the MIU closing overnight, due to the low number of patients, but remained concerned by the planned changes.
She said: “Given the options put forward, I would definitely prefer that the hospital stays open but I appreciate the night time is a problem.
“My fear is that an ambulance is down in Aberdeen and then gets called even further from Banff, leaving someone with a minor injury without help.
“Conversations have to be had with the ambulance service. They should try to bring GMED back here to make it viable to remain open at all hours.”
Partnership manager Angie Wood said she was pleased with the turnout at yesterday’s meeting and hoped those present appreciated why decisions were being taken.
She said: “I’ve spoken to people today who have looked at the numbers and realise it is tricky to sustain a service with those numbers.
“What’s important is working with our partners to make sure people are getting the right service and care when they need it.
“By working with partners I hope we can deliver something that works well.”
But some were not convinced.
Councillor Glen Reynolds said he felt the practical impacts of an overnight closure had not been adequately explained.
He said: “The practical impact to people hasn’t been made clear to them here. Minor is misleading as it includes many things – for example broken bones.
“I’m not convinced they’ve adequately thought this through alongside other services like the ambulances.”
Kathleen Mustard, chairwoman of the Banff and Macduff Community Council, was also unhappy.
“They’ve spent so much much renovating Chalmers Hospital and for what?”, she said.
“It’s hard to see things come to this.”