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Hands off our hospital

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By Christie Breen
Dumfries and West
Hands off our hospital

OVER 200 people attended a community meeting in Stranraer on Saturday to voice their concerns about a review of services at Galloway Community Hospital.

The event was organised by the Galloway Community Hospital Action Group (GCHAG), amid fears that services could be lost at the hospital when NHS Dumfries and Galloway carry out a proposed review of services.

Although the health board have stated that the review is separate from the current financial challenges they face, it was noted by those present that NHS Dumfries and Galloway have been ordered by the Scottish Government to make savings of £29 million during the forthcoming financial year.

There was also huge disappointment that the health board were not in attendance.

They called off in advance last week, stating: “We are fully committed to engaging with all stakeholders once, and if, a scope of review is established and agreed, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to contribute their views, but we are not yet at this point.”

And when asked earlier this week if officials regretted not sending a representative, an NHS spokesperson said: “There is no dispute about the importance of the role played by Galloway Community Hospital.

“As we noted last week ahead of the meeting, we’ve still to draft and agree our approach to any review – which has been in the offing for many months, and which is not something born out of our immediate and well-documented financial challenges.”

However South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth – who was there on Saturday – says it is “fantasy” to think the cost cutting won’t be a factor in any review.

He commented: “My message to NHS Dumfries and Galloway is clear. When you look for those cuts – hands off the Galloway Hospital.

“We have already seen a steady erosion of provision in recent years in the west of the region.

“It’s not as if people in Wigtownshire currently get fair access to service. Ask any mum to-be who has to go to Dumfries if they want to give birth in hospital because the maternity unit at the Galloway is closed, or a cancer patient who faces a gruelling journey to Edinburgh for treatment rather than Glasgow.

“Everyone has a right, wherever you live in Dumfries and Galloway or any part of Scotland, to have access to the minimum level of service. That isn’t the case for people in Wigtownshire and we cannot afford any more cuts.”

Following the meeting the action group, along with Stranraer and the Rhins councillor Willie Scobie have written an open letter to Scottish Health Secretary Neil Gray calling for more transparency and accountability.

They said: “As senior public servants of these public bodies, they should not be allowed to make these public announcements from the comfort of their ivory towers that could affect the health services to the most rural and remote areas of Dumfries and Galloway whilst hiding away from public accountability by making statements to be read out to the public at called public meetings.

“We therefore call on the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care to instruct these public servants to behave in a manner that reflects openness and transparency in an honest way that enhances public engagement and consultation rather than underhandedly trying to get issues slipped below the radar without any accountability.”

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