SPECULATION over claims that two dementia wards at Vale of Leven Hospital were set to close because of staff shortages led to “unnecessary distress”, according to an SNP candidate.
And Toni Giugliano accused Scottish Labour of “politicising” the issue in a bid to hold on to seats in the area.
The Fruin and Katrine wards at the hospital offer specialist care for dementia patients in Dumbarton, Helensburgh and the Vale of Leven, as well as supporting their families.Concern over their future was sparked by social media activity a week ago that claimed they were to close. “Shocked and appalled” Labour MSP, Jackie Baillie, wrote to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) and Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, demanding the plans were scrapped.
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The health board issued a statement denying the closures, and added: “There have been a number of issues in relation to medical staffing cover for these wards. This is partly related to the pandemic, but there have been more general staffing pressures and locum staff have been provided to ensure appropriate cover.
“We have now been able to identify locum cover and arrangements are being finalised to ensure there is no disruption to services going forward. A recruitment campaign for permanent medical staff also continues.”
Giugliano, the SNP candidate for Dumbarton who works in mental health policy and research, said closing the wards had not been contemplated.
He told The National: “Staff shortages and lack of locum cover are common in hospitals across the globe. They are not unusual in normal times and even more so during a pandemic where staff are redeployed or off sick.
“I understand the matter was resolved within days.
“The story however grew arms and legs with suggestions that the wards would close permanently.
“Nothing of the sort was ever contemplated. Labour politicians, however, continued to spread uncertainty days after the matter was resolved.
“It is one thing to stand up for local services, quite another to spread panic for political gain.”
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Giugliano said the future of the hospital is “stable” and cited a local campaign group as saying it was “in far better shape than it has been for many years”.
He added: “Doctors trying to find cover is something that happens on a weekly basis – it’s not a story, it’s not a crisis, it is perfectly normal.
“It’s even more of a challenge during Covid times when staff are redeployed to other wards and some of them are off sick as a result of Covid or other things in the winter.”Giugliano said Scottish Labour had used the hospital as an “ongoing campaign tool” for too long and it was time to stop knocking the hospital.
He added: “Labour should stop putting the fear of God into some of the most frail and vulnerable older people in particular, because that’s who these wards are for.
“It’s one thing is to stand up for local services – quite another to deliberately create panic over its future for political gain.”
Dumbarton MSP and Scottish Labour depute leader Jackie Baillie told The National: “Staff told me last Friday that they had been contacted by managers of the Health and Social Care Partnership to say that the wards were closing due to a contract with a locum consultant coming to an end.
“I contacted the Cabinet Secretary for Health, the health board and the Health and Social Care partnership as a matter of urgency. I am grateful for Jeane Freeman’s intervention.”