Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie sought assurances that the lights will stay on at Vale of Leven Hospital dementia wards.
By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has secured a commitment from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, that every effort will be made not to close the Fruin and Katrine Dementia wards at the Vale of Leven hospital.
They have not however gone so far as to assure the staff and public that the wards will definitely not be closing, despite a previous announcement, revealed exclusively by The Democrat, that staffing problems made it impossible to keep them open.
During Thursday’s session of First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, Jackie Baillie raised the fears expressed to her by staff, patients and family members, that the Fruin and Katrine wards would be moving to Glasgow.
This followed an announcement to staff about the closure of the wards and the transfer of patients to an un-named Glasgow hospital by senior managers last Friday.
The First Minister confirmed that the issue of staff shortages – the issue cited as the reason for any potential closures – has been solved temporarily.
Jeane Freeman, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, also responded to a written letter of protect from Jackie Baillie.
Within the response, she confirmed that “arrangements are being finalised to ensure that there is no disruption to services going forward.”
That answer still leaves the door ajar for the transfer that was announced initially and will come as a warning to Hospitalwatch and other campaigners to be vigilant about the future of the whole of the hospital – not just the two dementia wards.
Jackie Baillie said: ““I am pleased to have secured a commitment from the First Minister that every effort will be made to keep these vital wards open. I also welcome the positive intervention from [Health Secretary] Jeane Freeman.
“There have been mixed messages coming from the Health & Social Care Partnership [attached to West Dunbartonshire Council] this week about the future of these wards and their communication with hardworking staff has been less than satisfactory.
“Moving dementia patients and staff, whether on a temporary or permanent basis, is the worst possible option [for local patients and staff] and instead they should have made more effort to secure the services of another consultant on a locum basis.
“My priority is first and foremost to stand up for the staff, patients and family members whose lives would be hugely disrupted by any decision to close the Fruin and Katrine wards.
“The services that are provided on these wards are vital and it is more important than ever that local people have local access to care and support.
“I will always put the interests of my constituents first and they can count on me to stand up for them and for the Vale of Leven Hospital.”
The exchange between Jackie Baillie and the First Minister in Parliament was as follows:
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): On Friday last week, staff in the Fruin and Katrine dementia wards at the Vale of Leven hospital were told by their managers that the wards would be closing and that patients would be transferred to Glasgow. I am sure that the First Minister would agree that that would be very disruptive for dementia patients. That was because a locum consultant contract was ending. I welcome the positive intervention from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. Can the First Minister confirm that every effort will be made to secure consultant cover so that the wards remain open?
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): Yes, I give that commitment. I fondly remember visiting the Fruin and Katrine wards in the Vale of Leven Hospital when I was the health secretary. At that time, there was concern over the future of those wards and we worked with the health board to make sure that they were protected. They remain open to this day all these years later. Cover has now been secured to take away any short-term risk to the ability of those wards to stay open and to cater for the patients who depend on them. The Government has that long-term commitment and I know that the health board has committed to that too.
Jackie Baillie MSP, Ian Miller, Jim Moohan, Mick Mulkern, Mick Conroy, Barbara Barnes and the Hospitalwatch team welcome Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to Vale of Leven Hospital.
Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie welcomed the news that a UK COVID-19 vaccine has been approved and that the Scottish roll out programme will begin from Tuesday 8 December.
A priority list of those who will receive the vaccination, and when, is being pulled together and Jeane Freeman, Cabinet Secretary for Health, has confirmed that the vaccination will be able to be administered from within care homes.
Jackie Baillie said: “It is really fantastic news that a vaccination has been approved. There is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. This news will come as a huge relief for the millions of vulnerable people in our country whose lives have been put on hold by the pandemic. My thanks and gratitude goes to the hardworking scientists and specialists who worked around the clock to develop the vaccine.
“It is now of the utmost importance that the Scottish Government works with our health boards and all health care professionals as this vaccine is rolled out. The nature of the vaccine means that each step of the roll out must be highly organised and there is no room for mistakes.
“I urge anyone who is eligible for the vaccine to have it – it has been deemed to be completely safe by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and will have a hugely positive impact on our own lives and the lives of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”