Lanark’s Lockhart Hospital is to close on Friday and no-one can guarantee when - or even if - it will ever open again.
NHS Lanarkshire bosses came to Lanark personally on Monday night to tell a packed public meeting of the “crisis” that suddenly broke over the past fortnight that has led to the abrupt evacuation of patients and staff to other county hospitals.
Emotions among the 60 or so attending the meeting in the Harry Smith Complex at times ran high as NHS Lanarkshire Chief Executive Calum Campbell had to repeatedly make assurances that there was no behind-the-scenes “plot” to close the Lockhart for good.
He explained that the NHS had simply run out of doctors willing or able to provide medical cover for the locally highly-valued 30-bed hospital for mainly elderly patients.
He told the gathering that the current problem had its origins in the Lanark Doctors practice’s decision last year that it was too pressured to continue GP cover for the hospital.
A Lanarkshire NHS-subsidised locum doctor from the Biggar practice had been covering since but that doctor had suddenly had to withdraw “due to personal reasons” a fortnight ago; since then, explained Mr Campbell, NHS Lanarkshire had been engaged in a frantic effort to find a replacement.
Every GP in Lanarkshire had been personally emailed and 600 locum doctors contacted - and not one could or would come to the Lockhart’s rescue.
He said that efforts would now be concentrated on finding some new medical cover system which would allow the Lockhart to re-open; no firm timetable could be given.
During the meeting members of the public laid the blame for the crisis on both NHS Lanarkshire and the Lanark Doctors.
There was applause when one member of the public declared: “The Lockhart Hospital is treasured in Lanark. It must not be lost.”
There were suggested solutions from the public, the most popular being that all five GP practices in Clydesdale - Lanark, Carluke, Biggar, Douglas and Carnwath - be asked to share responsibility for providing doctor cover for the Lockhart.
The NHS bosses agreed to consider this and report back the results of their efforts to re-open this much-loved Lanark institution as soon as possible.
However, many left the meeting without hearing what they wanted most - a cast-iron guarantee of the Lockhart’s future.