A PENSIONER who owes his life to the “miraculous skills” of surgeons after a brush with death says the organised chaos he witnessed at Raigmore Hospital has convinced him it is time to pull the outdated building down.
Martin Gostwick (71), of Cromarty, who is lucky to be alive after suffering a devastating aneurysm, is in awe of the exceptional care provided by the hospital staff, but claims they are overstretched, under-resourced and working in a building that is no longer fit for purpose.
Three surgeons saved Mr Gostwick’s life during a lengthy and complex operation after he suffered a triple AAA aortic abdominal aneurysm – a rupture of the main artery that caused profuse internal bleeding.
He spoke out this week to express his gratitude to the consultants and nurses of Raigmore, and to the physiotherapists at Ross Memorial Hospital in Dingwall who helped him walk again. But he also made it clear he believes the Highlands is in need of a better hospital.
“My view, after my experiences, is the only long-term solution is to pull Raigmore Hospital down and build a new district general hospital,” he said.
“It is no longer fit for purpose, it was built in the 1970s with terrible planning, but the staff and surgeons there are doing a remarkable job.”
NHS Highland has responded to his criticism by saying it will be investing £28 million in upgrades at the hospital.
Mr Gostwick, whose wife Frieda survived a brain aneurysm 17 years ago, felt strange on July 3 this year, and woke up in a ward the next day with a line of stitches on his stomach and legs.
He has no memory of ringing Raigmore or of the taxi to ride to the hospital – there were no ambulances available.
He lost a huge amount of blood and during the procedure developed clots that had to be removed, and also underwent a colostomy.
“They told me I was very lucky, with that kind of injury, I could have died before I even got to hospital,” said Mr Gostwick.
“I was impressed by what appeared to be brilliant, miraculous skills from the surgeons themselves, and others. Then the nursing care in the ward was again nothing short of miraculous, they did everything for me.
“But what I witnessed was organised chaos. The constant ringing of buzzers by patients needing attention, including myself, was 247, it meant nurses and auxiliaries had to leave you in the middle of fixing your problem to go to deal with someone else. The ward was always full and the staff were under enormous pressure.”
On one occasion a staff member was called away in the middle of giving Mr Gostwick a shower and never came back, leaving him to struggle to get back to bed.
Mr Gostwick also said the stoma bags he used were on the brink of running out at the hospital on a regular basis.
During his month in Raigmore he used a wheelchair, and was then transferred to Ross Memorial where he received five sessions of physiotherapy a week, which meant he was using crutches by the time he went home.
He described the physiotherapists as “top notch” but said on one occasion there wasn’t anybody available to take his blood and a GP had to come down from Tain to do it.
Mr Gostwick, who works part-time as the secretary of the charity Friends of Hugh Miller, said: “My overall experience is one of awe for the standards that are provided by the servants of the health service, and of relief, gratitude and gladness to be still alive, now I can’t wait to get back on my bike.”
A NHS Highland spokeswoman said the hospital was exceptionally busy over that period, and staffing levels were adjusted accordingly.
She said £28 million, the single biggest investment in the hospital since it was built, is being spent on a critical care upgrade to “ensure the delivery of first-class health care in modern facilities for years to come”.
It will bring all critical care services together on two floors and include a refurbishment and extension of the operating theatre suite.
NHS Highland is also working on an outline business case for a £27 million elective care centre for knee, hip and cataract surgery and ophthalmology services.