Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has again asked NHS Highland to tackle continuing community concerns over the future of Migdale Hospital in Bonar Bridge.
Mrs Grant has supported constituents worried about changes at the hospital since 2019 and recently saw the report of Lairg Community Council’s further concerns.
She has previously voiced her frustration by the “lack of transparency” over changes that have happened over many months to the hospital’s Strathy ward, even before Covid hit.
NHS Highland then told Mrs Grant that to “create capacity to respond to Covid-19, the Strathy ward has now been “reconfigured to accept and manage general patients” but stressed it had not closed.
The health authority said mental health provision was also “reconfigured and consolidated” within New Craigs Hospital in Inverness, where the service continues to be delivered.
Mrs Grant has written again to NHS Highland’s Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, asking for more community consultation and it was raised at the health authority’s MSP briefing on Friday.
When the Sutherland hospital opened in 2011 it had 22 beds with two units – the Strathy ward, for older people with mental health problems, and another offering a range of in-patient services, such as palliative care, general medicine and rehabilitation services.
“This just rumbles on and on and it’s about time NHS Highland spoke directly to community representatives who are obviously still worried about the situation at Migdale,” said Mrs Grant.
“When this hospital opened much was made of research into dementia and official visits to other hospitals providing dementia care to build on good practice.
“I certainly hope that those aspirations to provide that sort of service in a rural area have not gone and that Coronavirus is not being used as cover for mental health staff and resources to be diverted by the back door.”
Mrs Grant says constituents do not want to see more centralisation of services.
The MSP previously discovered there were nearly five nursing posts vacant on the Strathy ward and patient admissions were temporarily halted before the ward reopened again and then the health authority moved to transfer patients to Inverness due to Covid, sparking more community concerns,