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Community fears for the future of Insch Hospital

By Kirsty Brown

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An Insch community group have said they are "100 percent committed" to reopening a local hospital which closed last March.

Friends Of Insch Hospital have spoken out after being continually unsatisfied with reassurances that the hospital will reopen in the future after it was closed at the start of the UK coronavirus pandemic to allow staff to be deployed to areas of higher demand.

According to the group, fears run deeper amongst the community than just the decision to close the hospital for the duration of the pandemic with indications a review of the viability of the hospital started as early as last January.

The group behind the review have confirmed that this was only the initial stages of a review, primarily forming a steering group who would focus on reviewing the needs of Insch community, and the review has been put on hold for the duration of the pandemic.

They have also offered assurance that when a review does go ahead the community will be central to the process.

A review will also be held into the hospital building to ensure it meets safety requirements, a common issue with older buildings as regulations constantly change.

There were also concerns that the decline of the hospital started well before the pandemic as beds had to be cut as a result of ongoing staff shortages, dropping to less than half of the hospital's original patient capacity, and tightened regulations on staffing numbers meant that there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

The Friends have heard these concerns and continue to offer to step in with whatever help they can to help reopen, and keep open, the hospital for the benefit of the community but feel that many of their offers have fallen on deaf ears.

The hospital serves not only the Insch community but also surrounding rural areas spreading from Meikle Wartle to Rhynie, and as a result of the hospital closure all patients from this expanse are being redirected out of the immediate locality to hospitals like Inverurie, Huntly and even Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and this is causing concerns amongst locals who have worked hard to reduce the risks and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in both Insch and the surrounding communities.

Concerns are growing about a lack of firm reassurance on the future of Insch Hospital, which has been closed since March 2020.
Concerns are growing about a lack of firm reassurance on the future of Insch Hospital, which has been closed since March 2020.

Assurances have been offered that the hospital will reopen when the pandemic ends, however as nobody knows when this will be many in the community are feeling let down by the lack of a firm plan.

A spokesperson for the Friends said: "There is a real lack of confidence from the community, and we are very concerned about what's happening.

"We face no more challenges than any other community hospital.

"We are 100 percent committed to reopening the hospital and we will do everything we can to help make this possible."

In their fight to reinstate and retain local services the Friends have this week written to local representatives as well as Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and the chief executive of NHS Grampian Caroline Hiscox to highlight the importance of Insch Hospital in easing pressure on other services in the Grampian area as well as on patients, potential patients and their families, and the letter also outlines ways in which they can offer support to get the hospital reopened as quickly as possible.

Following backlash on social media a spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Health And Social Care Partnership wrote: "At the beginning of the pandemic the AHSCP took the decision to temporarily close Insch and Aboyne Community Hospitals for the duration of the pandemic.

"The decision was taken so that we could consolidate our resources and re-deploy staff into other critical service areas and those needs have not changed.

"All of our services remain under constant review as we respond to the pandemic and need to deploy our staff to wherever they can help us to manage our responsibilities most effectively."

AHSCP say they are sympathetic towards the concerns of the community but insists the closure has been a necessary step in the battle against coronavirus in the north-east.

Speaking with the Advertiser partnership manager for AHSCP Geraldine Fraser said: “In early 2020 we had identified the need to review the health and social care services in Insch and the surrounding area and were in discussion with the Friends, about doing this in Partnership.

"This included the services provided from Insch Hospital.

"However, as soon as the pandemic struck we took the decision to suspend all non-urgent work so that we could focus all of our time and efforts on combating Covid-19 and its impact on our communities and services.

"For just now we must continue to concentrate our resources where they are needed most, including the vaccination programme, and we will hopefully be in a position to resume the review we had started in partnership with the Friends, soon.”

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