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Daily Record
Daily Record
Marc McLean & Dumfries and Galloway Standard

Dumfries and Galloway councillors call for urgent reopening of cottage hospitals

Dumfries and Galloway councillors are calling for the urgent reopening of the region’s cottage hospitals.

A letter will now be sent of behalf of the council to health chiefs at NHS Dumfries and Galloway and the Integration Joint Board, which oversees health and social care in the community.

Independent councillor Willie Scobie tabled a motion at the full council meeting calling for swift action to free up more beds and increase healthcare provision.

The call came after a public meeting in Newton Stewart where more than 200 people expressed their anger that the local cottage hospital, which had been shut during lockdown, had not reopened.

Both Councillor Scobie and fellow independent councillor Dougie Campbell, who seconded his motion, believe that a move could be afoot to permanently close all rural cottage hospitals.

Mr Scobie said: “While we have been told there is to be an intensive period of consultation between January 2023 to March 2023, we really must have participation and engagement with the local people in each of the areas.

“I would look for the council to put to the health board that we do want this engagement, but we want to see engagement that will lead to the cottage hospitals being opened for whatever purposes that fit the bill.

“Whether it’s for palliative care, respite, or step-down facilities, it’s really to examine that.”

He added: “There is a fear in the community that there is a hidden agenda by them remaining closed and not used.

“In the (consultation) document, it’s got to be open and transparent, with nothing hidden from the community.”

Councillor Campbell added: “To pick up on the beds review that Willie mentioned, I’ve got some concerns about this review.

“I would back what he says about openness and transparency. The feedback that I’m picking up is that this is just a pre-cursor to closure.
“With Kirkcudbright Cottage Hospital, there have been campaigns for many, many years to save the hospital.

“It’s highly-valued by the community and if the NHS in Dumfries and Galloway can give assurances that this review isn’t with a view to closure, but it’s about improving rural healthcare provision, I think that’ll be well received.”

The Kirkcudbright and Newton Stewart community hospital facilities, as well as those in Langholm and Moffat, were mothballed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It looks unlikely that NHS Dumfries and Galloway will reopen the facilities, with health chiefs claiming that such a move would worsen the situation due to staffing shortages.

Health board chief executive Jeff Ace has argued that reopening the four closed cottage hospitals at the moment would put pressure on staffing levels and lead to a reduction in care capacity.

The motion agreed by the council also called for a minimum wage of £15 per hour for health and social care workers, and also urges the UK and Scottish Governments to recruit skilled asylum seekers, refugees, and migrant workers into the NHS.

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