LINGERING fears that a highly valued Ross-shire hospital could face the axe have been lifted.
Despite concerns about the multimillion-pound cost of bringing the Victorian-era Ross Memorial Hospital in Dingwall up to present-day standards, a senior boss has given a local councillor assurances that “there are no plans to close services” there.
The news was welcomed this week by Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Margaret Paterson, who says she’s been inundated by calls and enquiries from concerned members of the public over the issue.
The fate of the Dingwall hospital has been swathed in uncertainty for well over a year following a series of public workshops run by NHS Highland.
These probed hypothetical options for the future, ranging from the building of a brand new hospital to the axing of inpatient medical beds.
An NHS estates boss had also warned it would cost £2.6million to bring the building back to its original condition and “significant investment” to bring the oldest part of the building — which dates back to 1873 — into line with current requirements.
Cllr Paterson told the Journal ongoing concerns prompted her to request a meeting with Nigel Small, director of operations for the South and Mid Operational Unit, for an update.
She said: “I’ve had an assurance that the hospital is not under threat. It is secure and will not be closing. The next stage will be to talk to the community about how best to use it in the future. People have been really worried about this issue so I think folk will be happy to hear this.”
Cllr Paterson — who has consistently backed retention of the facility — has been involved in chairing a steering group looking into its future.
Contacted for comment, Mr Small, told the Journal: “I recently had a very helpful meeting with Councillor Paterson at which I was able to confirm that there are no plans to close services at Ross Memorial Hospital.
“I am keen that we work closely with community representatives and staff to ensure that the services provided at the hospital support local population needs. For example, it’s really important that the hospital services work in a joined up way with local GP practices and community health and social care services.
“We are planning to discuss the next steps with interested parties in September.
“We’re aware of the current issues and have the information from our estates department. We will need to factor that into discussions in how we use the site for the future.”
Dr Miles Mack, a senior partners in the neighbouring Dingwall Health Centre, said: “It is welcome news that there are no plans for closure of services at the Ross Memorial Hospital.
“Since it was opened in 1873 the hospital has changed and adapted to local needs and it continues to provide important services to the local area as far as the west coast.
“At a time when services at Raigmore become ever more specialised and technical, there is an increasing need for care in the local community, especially for the increasing number of elderly patients with complex health needs.
“Since the inpatient beds were reduced to nine, it is often difficult to admit patients to the Ross Memorial Hospital when we want to. We look forward to working with NHS Highland to develop a plan of how this care will be provided in the future.”