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Monklands Hospital: Hundreds of Airdrie and Coatbridge residents …

HUNDREDS of Airdrie and Coatbridge residents turned out for a demonstration to express their opposition to the plans to remove trauma and orthopaedic services from Monklands Hospital.

Nearly 200 people joined in with Sunday’s event, protesting against a health board decision which they insist amounts to a “downgrading” of the hospital and raises questions over its accident and emergency service.

They were also met by a counter-protest group, including Airdrie SNP councillors Michael and Sophia Coyle, who distributed leaflets refuting any suggestion that the plans threaten either the hospital as a whole or its emergency department.

Board members from NHS Lanarkshire took the decision last month to concentrate orthopaedic trauma and elective services at the county’s other two hospitals, Wishaw and Hairmyres, for an interim period to help address staffing issues and ensure patient safety.

Their long-term intention is to concentrate all trauma work in the specialty at Wishaw General, with either Monklands or Hairmyres being chosen as the dedicated elective centre.

The location question is currently out for public consultation until the end of next month.

“Hands around the Hospital” demonstration co-organiser Peter Owens said: “I was overwhelmed by the turnout and would like to thank everybody who turned up at the protest for their commitment to the hospital.

“I hope the health board sit up and take notice of the people and stop this until there’s full public consultation on the interim plans, not just stage two.

“Our goal is that this is stopped until then and we’re currently working on taking this to the Court of Session to get NHS Lanarkshire to stop this downgrade until there’s a full consultation.

Monklands Hospital

“We believe this is stealth downgrading, with removal of services by back door, and that it’s inevitable that it would lead to the closure of our hospital.

“I spoke to those assembled about how we fought the closure of the A&E department in 2006 and had that decision overturned; and we’ve had a consultant at two public meetings and there on Sunday saying a hospital without trauma and orthopaedics can’t sustain A&E.”

He added of the proposal for a new £400 million Monklands Hospital by 2023: “I think it’s all pie in the sky, and an election promise they can’t deliver on.”

Independent Airdrie North councillor Alan Beveridge was among those attending, and said: “I was delighted to see the large turnout of concerned residents, but disgusted to see SNP members there, distributing leaflets and appearing in favour of this downgrade.”

Ward colleague Sophia Coyle said of her group’s presence at the event: “I attended to provide assurances to my constituents and the people of Airdrie who have been frightened by rumours that the hospital is being downgraded and the A&E closing.

“I’m of course disappointed that this has resulted in a small change to orthopaedic services – naturally I would prefer all services are retained at Monklands – but the reality is that this is not an option due to patient safety and [the proposals] appear to be the optimal solution in the interim.

“The local SNP is 100 per cent committed to Monklands Hospital and there is a cast-iron guarantee from the government and health board that it is safe in our hands but will be improved by the building of a new state-of-the-art facility.”

Alex Neil, the Airdrie and Shotts MSP, said in a joint-statement issued with Fulton MacGregor MSP and Neil Gray MP following questions at Holyrood last week: “The health secretary reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to Monklands as a Grade 1 hospital and ‘guaranteed’ all three A&E departments in Lanarkshire.

“Her statement gives the lie to those who are spreading lies that the SNP plans to downgrade Monklands Hospital.”

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