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Petition launched to save Highland hospital


By Scott Maclennan

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The Royal Northern Infirmary in Inverness.
Picture: Gary Anthony
The Royal Northern Infirmary in Inverness. Picture: Gary Anthony

HUNDREDS of people are supporting a campaign to halt the closure of the RNI community hospital in Inverness.

In a shock decision, NHS Highland will discharge all patients over the next four weeks and reassign staff in order to carry out essential maintenance work and prepare it for a potential second wave of Covid-19 cases this winter.

The health board has promised to meet concerned staff and contact Inverness MP Drew Hendry and MSP Fergus Ewing, who were troubled by the news.

More than 300 people have signed an online petition to the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland which states they “would like to keep the Royal Northern Infirmary as a much-needed community hospital and prevent the loss of much-needed services”.

Mr Hendry said: “Several people who work at the hospital have been in touch with me and they are understandably concerned about the hospital’s future and whether they will have jobs to return to following this out-of-the-blue decision.

“While everyone understands NHS Highland needs to carry out essential repairs and put in place measures for preparedness for winter pressures, it is important to be mindful of the impact these decisions have on staff.

“Given the incredible commitment these staff have shown during the Covid crisis, they deserve the respect of clarity over what is happening and how they will be affected.

“I had a helpful telephone call with NHS Highland yesterday and have been assured they will be following up with staff and will provide myself and my colleague, Fergus Ewing, with updates on those discussions over the coming days.”

In April, in-patient wards at the RNI were affected by coronavirus, leading to new staff being deployed and all visiting suspended.

A spokesman for the health board said: “NHS Highland is taking steps to ensure that the hospitals in Inverness are prepared to respond to a potential second wave of Covid-19.

“NHS Highland is redesigning community services in Inverness as it steps up its response to remobilising services following the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure ward environments are prepared for winter pressures.

“All patients currently in the RNI ward are expected to be discharged over the next four weeks. During this period, NHS Highland will undertake essential maintenance work within the hospital, including fire upgrades, to ensure the ward environment is prepared to manage any potential increase in Covid-19 cases should we experience a second wave.

“Staff will be reassigned to provide care in other areas of the community and in Raigmore Hospital. We have engaged with all of the staff affected and support is being provided.

“We will regularly review the temporary closure of the wards as the mobilisation of services continues.”

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