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'Keith patients deserve better' – frustrated doctors press for progress on new health centre as politicians tour facilities


By Lorna Thompson

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HEALTH professionals in Keith are keen to see progress for a new health centre and hospital for the town "back on track" following the pandemic.

Politicians toured Keith Community Surgery and the adjacent Turner Memorial Hospital last week in a push to see progress in plans to replace the ageing facilities.

Moray Conservative MP Douglas Ross was accompanied by Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, shadow spokesperson on health and social care in the Scottish Parliament, for the visit on Friday, November 5.

They met GPs, the practice manager and chair of the Keith Health Centre Patient Participation Group (PPG) Leon Stelmach to discuss the pressing need for new facilities.

A new centre for Keith has been recognised by NHS Grampian as a top priority for Moray.

Pre-pandemic, land had been identified for a new health centre off Banff Road and discussions had taken place with the police and fire service about creating a community hub.

A survey was also launched back in July 2019 asking locals what they would like to see in a new facility. The survey was due to close in May 2020, by which point the whole NHS was in the grip of the pandemic.

Dr David Rathband, one of five GPs at the practice, said the case for Keith to have a purpose-built modern healthcare facility had been answered. He added: "We are keen to get the process back on track and get something to show for our efforts.

"The hospital really isn't equipped in the way that a modern healthcare facility would be.

"The health centre doesn't have the number of access points that would be expected. It doesn't have the communal spaces that would be normal in a modern healthcare facility. The rooms aren't accessible for patients in wheelchairs.

"These are basic fundamentals of 21st-century care."

Chair of the Keith Health Centre Patient Participation Group Leon Stelmach (right) is joined by shadow spokesperson for health and social care Dr Sandesh Gulhane (left), Moray MP Douglas Ross (second right) and Dr David Rathband at Keith's Turner Memorial Hospital and Heath Centre. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Chair of the Keith Health Centre Patient Participation Group Leon Stelmach (right) is joined by shadow spokesperson for health and social care Dr Sandesh Gulhane (left), Moray MP Douglas Ross (second right) and Dr David Rathband at Keith's Turner Memorial Hospital and Heath Centre. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Discussions between long-time local health campaigner Leon Stelmach (left), shadow spokesperson for health and social care Dr Sandesh Gulhane (second left) and Dr David Rathband at Keith's Turner Memorial Hospital and Heath Centre. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Discussions between long-time local health campaigner Leon Stelmach (left), shadow spokesperson for health and social care Dr Sandesh Gulhane (second left) and Dr David Rathband at Keith's Turner Memorial Hospital and Heath Centre. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

His colleague, Dr Clare Green, a Keith GP for 21 years, added: "We've been talking about getting new premises pretty much since I've been here.

"There have been other priorities over the last two years dealing with the pandemic, but still we would like to see some progress."

She said parking was a major issue for the health centre, as were limitations due to the size of some consulting rooms and a lack of social space.

She added: "We can't easily open our doors at the moment with Covid and social distancing rules, as we only have one point of access. That makes it very difficult for our patients."

Mr Stelmach has been involved in the campaign for 12 years.

He said: "The staff must be getting frustrated as this has been on the agenda for years but appears to be getting nowhere.

"We've had people resign – saying they can't go on with this any longer.

"When you go into, for instance, Lossiemouth's new centre, you could have a dance in the reception area. It has big rooms for the GPs, extra facilities.

"In this old building, every time something is mended, something else falls down or leaks. It's third world."

Mr Ross said the tour had shown starkly that the dated buildings were not fit for purpose.

He said: "The doctors, nurses, all the staff are doing great work in spite of, rather than because of, the facilities that they've got.

"It's as clear now as it has always been that there is an urgent need for a replacement for the two facilities in the town.

"The people of Keith and the surrounding area deserve modern health facilities and I have written to NHS Grampian urging them to complete and submit an Initial Assessment, as nothing can happen until that is done.

"We have been waiting years for this project to be taken to the next level and I want to see action from the health board and the Scottish Government to deliver for the area."

After the tour Dr Gulhane said Keith patients deserved better.

He said: "Patients can't physically come into this GP surgery if they have a wheelchair or double prams. That's not acceptable.

"Patients also deserve to get better treatment at the hospital. It's cramped and the staff aren't able to do their jobs. The patients aren't able to get the privacy that they need to be able to get the help they need.

"Keith Health Centre serves more than 7300 people in the local area and the current facilities are not fit for purpose.

"As a GP myself I can understand the frustration in Keith that the promise of a new health centre seems as far away as ever. It is also vital that a new local hospital attached to the health centre is also built, offering the minor injury service, clinics, medical, convalescence and palliative care that the existing hospital provides but in a new purpose-built unit."

The three-ward cottage hospital, which also has seven single rooms, is currently operating around 10 beds.

Local councillor Donald Gatt (Conservative, Keith & Cullen) said: "A modern healthcare and inpatient facility for Keith is more than a decade overdue and urgently needed for the people of Keith and surrounding area.

"The current facilities are long past their best. Both patients and NHS workers deserve a modern, spacious, fit-for-purpose building equipped to the latest standards."

NHS Grampian have been approached for comment.


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