An Angus health official has called claims that Montrose Royal Infirmary could close “misleading”.
Staff at the community hospital were recently told that, with immediate effect, all shifts were to be covered by a minimum of two registered nurses.
Previously the hospital operated with one registered nurse and one health care assistant on shift.
Dr Kristien Hintjens, who is a GP partner at the Townhead Medical Practice, has claimed the community hospital only has enough members of staff to cover until Christmas Eve.
She it would then be ‘non-operational’ and closed with patients being moved to other places, such as Stracathro or care homes outwith Angus.
Angus Health and Social Care Partnership has refuted Dr Hintjens’ claims and says the infirmary is not closing.
Dr Hintjens said: “I am very alarmed at this development.
“I am rather pessimistic about long term-plans for Montrose Royal Infirmary.”
She says doctors have been “repeatedly” reassured by Angus Health and Social Care Partnership “verbally that it is not under threat”, adding she sees this most recent action as an attempt by Angus Health and Social Care Partnership “to close our local community hospital once again and I do not think they will stop until they have succeeded”.
Dr Hintjens added: “This is minuted in our North East Clinical Improvement Group (NEIG) meeting minutes.
“We have formally stated that a GP bed led unit for local care, including palliative care, in our locality planning in our NEIG is needed.”
In June, the community maternity unit based at Montrose Royal Infirmary was closed for births and has not reopened.
Montrose Royal infirmary has 13 beds and staff have been caring for patients at the hospital since 1839.
Dr Hintjens continued: “We aim as GPs, in a multi-disciplinary team, to care for patients in their own homes for as long as possible if this is what they wish. Unfortunately this is not always possible due to lack of family or social support/resources.
“Inevitably some of our most frail and elderly patients will need some time in a hospital bed even with excellent multi-disciplinary teamwork.
“Montrose Infirmary allows continuity of care by the GPs.
“It reduces risk of hospital acquired infection and delirium because of the small size and local nature of the unit.
“It also allows patients to be supported by their family, their friends and their peers.
“This optimises their mental well-being, especially at the end of life.
“It goes without saying that the carers and friends also benefit hugely as long distance travel to Dundee and Stracathro is reduced.”
Gail Smith, head of community health and care services for the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, has quashed Dr Hintjens’ claims and says the infirmary remains open.
She said: “The views offered by a local GP are misleading.
“I would like to reassure the public that the GP ward at Montrose Infirmary remains open and that there are sufficient staffing resources available throughout Angus to continue to provide safe and high quality patient care in Montrose.
“We have been reviewing staffing levels at Montrose Infirmary to enhance nurse cover and to ensure that safe, efficient and effective rostering practices are being employed.
The Angus Health and Social Care Partnership is working hard to develop new models of care which will create sustainable ways of working into the future.
“These are essential to recruiting the future workforce in Angus, and to improve the working lives and opportunities for all.
“We are pleased that the Enhanced Community Support model of care has been so successful in the South of Angus. This is now being rolled out to the North East of Angus with resources targeted to meet the needs of patients earlier when they become unwell and as close to their own homes as possible.
“A paper presented to the Angus Integrated Joint Board last week discussed Enhanced Community Support and described that work is ongoing to consider the best shape of inpatient services across Angus which are fit for the future. This is occurring in collaboration with the locality groups and frontline staff with plans to be developed and presented in 2017.”