The building of the new hospital in Dumfries will secure the long-term future of cottage hospitals in Newton Stewart and Stranraer.
That’s according to the chief executive of NHS Dumfries and Galloway Jeff Ace.
At a special presentation to members of Cree Valley Community Council and the public in the Douglas Ewart High School on Monday evening, Mr Ace said that closing the smaller hospitals in the west of the region was not an option due to the “geography, demography and age of population” in Dumfries and Galloway.
The health board boss said: “We can’t put all our eggs in one basket as the demography of Dumfries and Galloway won’t allow it. We can’t expect people to travel over a region of 2500 square miles for routine medical care”. But he added that the two smaller hospital would have to up there game as he will expect them to be operating at 85 per cent occupancy in the future. Work will also be done on the cottage hospitals and the heath board were currently looking at a programme of renovations.
The smaller hospitals’ role will be to continue the nursing of patients once the critical stage of their treatment has been carried out in Dumfries. Mr Ace wants to reduce the time patients spend at DGRI from the current average of four days and patients will be moved on to a hospital nearer their home before being discharged in future.
The well-documented staffing problems at the Galloway Community Hospital in Stranraer has seemingly ended with the appointment of three new doctors in a month, with two signed up in the past week.
Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes told Mr Ace: “This is good news that the new hospital will protect the integrity of the other cottage hospitals in the region. If NHS Dumfries and Galloway think the dispersed cottage hospital option is the right solution I suggest you now go out and talk to the people all across the region and find out if this is the type of service they want.”
But MSP Alex Fergusson was still harbouring deep concerns.
He added: “I am concerned that the focus on the new hospital in Dumfries could deflect attention away from the situation in Stranraer. Recruitment and retention of staff has been an issue in our region for many years now.”