Aboyne Hospital ward beds to go

A STATE-of-the-art Deeside hospital has closed a ward less than two weeks after the Princess Royal officially opened it.

The move by NHS Gampian to shut a three-bed long-stay geriatric ward at Aboyne Community Hospital has provoked anger among supporters in deeside.

Norma Urquhart, chairwoman of the Friends of Aboyne Hospital, who have raised more than 200,000, called the decision a “kick in the teeth” to the hundreds of people who had supported the hospital over the years.

Princess Anne officially re-opened the hospital on August 21 and chatted with patients and staff including the long-stay patients and new mums and babies.

Mrs Urquahart is angry that less than two weeks later the announcement came to close one three-bed long-stay geriatric ward, reducing the number of beds from 10 to seven.

Mrs Urquhart said: “It is a kick in the teeth for the many hundreds of peple who have been so generous to Friends of Aboyne Hospital over the years, we feel dismayed, let down and angry.

However, the chairman of the group responsible for overseeing health care in Deeside said it was good housekeeping to redeploy precious resources within the Grampian area.

Aboyne Community Hospital re-opened in May 2003 following a 18 month 1.5 million refurbishment programme that saw the facility kitted out with modern light fittings, wooden laminate flooring, tasteful decoration, conservatories, comfortable furniture and a garden among the new features since work began 18 months ago.

The hospital opened with a total of 26 beds: four maternity beds, 12 GP acute beds and 10 long stay beds, however, three went on Monday, September 1. Three more long-stay beds have also been lost at Banchory's Glen O'Dee Hospital.

At present, there are only three long stay patients at Aboyne and health experts believe there will less demand in years to come as more elderly care is channelled through nursing homes and community care.

Mrs Urquhart believes the beds should have been desnignated differnently: “They've gone for good now and I can't see anyway of getting them back. If NHS Grampian thought they wouldn't need them why did they put them there in the first place? It is a fait accompli, we are not going to get these back,” said the former dental surgeon.

“I cannot live with the fact that within four months of opening three beds are going.” Many local people, including former patients, donated money or provided equipment to the hospital.

“What worries me is that this may just be the beginning. The nurses are already worked off their feet but I fear the number of staff may cut if beds numbers are reduced.”

The Friends of Aboyne Hospital provided curtains, screens, duvet covers, 800 worth of garden patio pots and flowers for the hospital in the run up last May's opening. The Rotary Club of Aboyne and Upper Deeside funded televisions for each room and overhead lights.

Eighty four members of Friends of Aboyne Hospital have helped raise in excess of 200,000 for the community health care facility since it was formed in 1989.

Work on Torphins Hospital is currently underway to create a primary care resource centre, providing community services. GPs, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, dementia day care, community practice nurses, and speech and language therapy.

Dr Martin McCrone, the Banchory GP who is also chairman of the Deeside Local Health Care Cooperative, said there was no need for the long-stay beds at Aboyne or Glen O'Dee and the resources could be better allocated.

The NHS carried out at review in 1997 that reconfigured the way health care was to be provided in Deeside. At that point it was felt 20 long-stay elderly beds were needed. However, Dr McCrone said recent discussions between Deeside LHCC and elderly-care experts suggested demand will fall and the beds would remain unused.

“ The world has changed since we carried out the review in 1997. When Aboyne closed for refurbishment it became clear we still had enough beds to provide elderly care at Glen O'Dee and it was very obvious these beds would never have been used.”

“It was coincidence that we had Princess Anne opening the hospital one week and we're closing beds the next.”

Dr McCrone said: “There are no plans to make anyone redundant, the hospital is not about to be shrunk. New services are planned for the hospital including an endoscopy unit. We are keen to expand the skills of our staff. We have a gem of a unit that is a great facility for Deeside.

“People have a tendency to think of beds and concrete as the essence of a hospital but it's the staff and ability to expand services that really counts.”