Concerns for the future of a north-east hospital have deepened after the results of a detailed review were revealed for the first time.
The continued existence of Ugie Hospital in Peterhead will be discussed at the Aberdeenshire Council Integration Joint Board (IJB) meeting this week.
It provides rehabilitation care for elderly patients who need more attention after leaving Aberdeen Royal Infirmary before returning home.
Like many other minor injury units (MIUs), however, it has struggled for staff and funding in recent years and has been subject to a controversial review by the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership.
Findings from that review and a public consultation undertaken in April, will now be placed before the IJB on Wednesday.
They reveal that the community is firmly behind the retention of Ugie but that such an outcome may not be possible.
The report presented to the IJB suggests the committee create a Peterhead Project Board to plan for property needs associated with redesigning health and social care in Peterhead.
It also recommends that: “Where office or outpatient clinical space is considered suboptimal at Ugie, and local alternatives are identified, service provision may be repositioned as required to ensure patients and staff benefit from an improved environment without unnecessary delay.”
Results show 292 people are against patients being moved to other facilities and 455 believe Ugie is in the right location.
At the Peterhead Community Council meeting on Wednesday a statement was made claiming there would be no compulsory redundancies at Ugie.
Councillor Alan Buchan said: “Most took that to mean that the Ugie was to close and the staff would be either offered voluntary redundancy or an alternative job in the NHS.”
Six options have been presented for the future of Ugie hospital, the majority of which campaigners believe will result in the closure of Ugie.
One campaigner Ann Shreeve said: “Our aim in publicising the possible closure of the Ugie was simply to make the people in charge aware that there was plenty of opposition to their plans for the possible closing of the Ugie in its present form and to the building of the proposed Health Village.
“Having said that, I believe that a decision has already been made and it is a fait accompli.
“What a pity that none of the decision makers approached us to convince us of their argument.”
Mrs Shreeve’s mother has spent time in one of the 14 beds at Ugie and she feels that closing it would be “shameful”.
Margaret Morgan, the retired manager of Ugie, raised concerns for remaining staff last month claiming they were being kept in the dark and vacancies were left unfilled.
Ms Morgan said: “There has now been a meeting with the staff of Ugie.
“They didn’t tell them anything new but the report to the Integration Board shows clearly that the public want Ugie kept open.
“I have a copy of a letter saying they are going to advertise two staff positions which would be permanent.
“I don’t think they would do that if they were going to redeploy them.
“The only trouble is that people are going to be reluctant to apply with all the uncertainty.”
Partnership manager Mark Simpson said: “We began the process of reviewing the services that we provide at Ugie Hospital in April.
“We engaged with residents and service users to look at how we ensure we are providing the right services in the right place and that our service provision in Peterhead is fit for the future.”
Recruitment is the main problem facing the NHS
The First Minister claims recruitment is the main crisis affecting the health sector.
Nicola Sturgeon, when asked about the recent issues with the Cornhill ward and Dr Grey’s, said spending is not the problem but staffing.
She said: “The Cornhill issues are with the dementia wards which is absolutely regrettable, but these are temporary closures that have been decided upon principally to make sure that patients safety is being protected.
“That’s not an issue of money and anyone who knows anything about the health service in that respect knows that. It’s about recruitment challenges that are not unique to Grampian or Scotland.
“This further underlines the hypocrisy of the Tories as this has been exacerbated by Brexit and the difficulties that is posing in terms of recruiting nurses from European countries.
“We continue to work and will work closely with NHS Grampian to assist them in getting through these challenges.”