Tonight sees what could be a crunch meeting for the future of Lanark’s Lockhart Hospital take place at the town’s Memorial Hall.
Calls have been made for Lanarkians to vote with their feet by turning up en masse tonight (Wednesday) at 7.30pm to urge NHS Lanarkshire bosses present to have the 30-bed hospital, mothballed in May, re-opened quickly.
As the Lanark Community Council-organised meeting approached, an expert has warned that the permanent loss of the hospital could seriously damage efforts to revitalise the town’s economy.
Retired senior council planning officer Crawford Fulton, co-chair of the Clyde Imagineering ‘think-tank’, has hit out at the lack of forward planning by NHS Lanarkshire to protect The Lockhart, closed when the single doctor providing medical cover for the hospital unexpectedly departed.
“It is a disgrace that The Lockhart was left in such a vulnerable position in the first place,” he told the Gazette.
“The fact that its survival was allowed to hinge on a single GP show how high a priority the hospital was with the health bosses in Hamilton.
“If you look at it over recent history, the Lockhart closure is just the latest in a series of retreats of services from Lanark and the Clydesdale area.
“First we lost Law Hospital, the William Smellie Hospital in Lanark and Roadmeetings in Carluke. Everything is gradually being sucked into central Lanarkshire.
“That might suit the chiefs at NHS Lanarkshire but it doesn’t suit sick people in the rural area who now have to travel for any hospital treatment.”
“Having a hospital - even a small one like The Lockhart - in the town is essential if we are to convince people to invest in and come to live and work in Lanark. The damage to the town the hospital’s permanent closure would cause goes far beyond the medical implications.”
The Gazette understands that it is unlikely that any final decsion on the hospital’s fate will be revealed by NHS bosses tonight at the Memorial Hall.
While the host, Community Council chairman Frank Gunning, has called for “standing room only” to stress to the visitors the value the people of Lanark put on The Lockhart, council members have also appealed for the audience to give the health chiefs a polite hearing and not to allow recriminations over the issue to dominate the gathering.