Banff residents are being warned they may have a fight on their hands if they want to see their local minor injuries unit reopened.
The Chalmers Hospital unit’s operating hours were reduced following a review by the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership last year.
All minor injuries units in Aberdeenshire then closed when the coronavirus lockdown started in March, and though others in Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Huntly have reopened, Banff’s has not.
Now concerned Banff and Macduff residents are being warned they’re in for an uphill struggle.
Richard Menard, Banff and Macduff Community Safety Group’s chairman, told community councillors this week: “The danger is it will remain closed and they’ll use Covid-19 as an excuse to do it.
“They’ll sweep it under the carpet.
“We are in a medical black hole in this area.
“Anything we can do to save lives is important and keeping that unit open is something we should be pressing for and not letting it slide.”
Aberdeenshire councillors and health officials on the integrated joint board had their planned review into the service stopped in its tracks by the pandemic.
Town councillor Glen Reynolds, who sits on the board, is warning locals they “have to keep the pressure up” if the reopening is to be seen as a priority post-coronavirus.
He argued: “When it was closed it was subject to a review.
“That review, obviously, has been affected by Covid, and to reopen something in the situation we are in at the moment is going to be an obstacle, but it’s not an obstacle that we can’t overcome.
“We have to make sure that review takes place at the right time.
“It makes no sense that people should have to travel further to address minor injury needs when within Covid-19 it makes sense to limit travel.
“In terms of priorities, it’s not seen as a top one, to be perfectly frank, and we need to make sure we keep the pressure up.
“I can assure you it won’t be swept under the carpet as long as I have anything to do with it.”
The group’s vice-chairman Rob McArthur called for the community council and town representatives to “stand together” and “fight really hard” to make sure their voices are heard.
Town councillor Ross Cassie agreed, saying: “It is closed at the moment, so you are going to have to fight really hard to reopen it. It’s just using what we have to alter minds.”
There are no immediate plans for the issue to go before the Integrated Joint Board.