West Lothian’s Integrated Joint Board agreed that the hospital should remain shut until the middle of the year because of the ongoing Covid driven staffing crisis.
In a report to the board which oversees jointly managed health and social care provision between West Lothian Council and NHS Lothian, Chief Officer Alison White said: “The situation at St Michael’s Hospital site and the pressures across the acute sites are unchanged since the last report to the IJB.”
She added: “In-patient numbers in Baillie Ward at Tippethill Hospital have increased with a higher number of referrals. Currently there is no demand for two separate units to be open and work is under way to explore opportunities for delivering palliative care at home through a dedicated service connected to the District Nurses rather than in a hospital setting.
“Given the current situation, it is recommended that St Michael’s Hospital remains closed until June and is reviewed at that point. This will give more time to progress the Home First programme, evaluate some of the new approaches which are being developed and allow focus on delivery of services in the community as far as possible.”
Board member and Bathgate Labour councillor Harry Cartmill said: “There are people who are concerned about – not my words, but theirs – a creeping closure of St Michael’s. What kind of assurances can you offer?”
Mrs White said there was no plan to close the site, adding: “ I can’t give a cast iron guarantee that there will never be closure of St Michael’s but what I can say is that before any firm decisions were made there would be a full consultation undertaken at that point.
“We have been doing a very thorough review of all of our services and St Michael’s obviously part of that review just to make sure that we have that right blend of support and care that’s in place.
“There would be a full consultation before any decision is taken.”
Mrs White added that the review was looking at all types of provision. There is still a big demand for palliative hospital care.
The decision to temporarily close St MIchael’s was first made last summer driven by the numbers of staff sick because of Covid 19.
Board officers have maintained close links with patient and family groups including the Friends of St Michael’s and plan to meet with groups again in the next few weeks.