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Elderly, infirm, poor families and looked-after children will be worst hit by long journeys to hospitals in Paisley, Alexandria and Glasgow, Councillor Mary-Jean Devon told hospital bosses on Tuesday evening.
The meeting to update people on hospital services, and take questions and answers from the community, was attended by around 100 people, including a large number of Oban hospital staff and managers.
The largest round of applause of the evening was in response to a statement by Mary-Jean Devon, who outlined her concerns about the number of appointments now being made in the city for in the morning.
While people can reclaim the mileage and an allowance for overnight accommodation, Mrs Devon told of one patient who had raised concerns with her.
Mrs Devon, who lives on Mull, said: ‘Mr X is in his late 70s his appointment as at 9am in Paisley. It is impossible for him to get from the island to the hospital for that time – so he has to have one overnight in the city.
‘At his appointment, there can often be more than 10 people who have been given the same appointment time. Therefore he can sometimes be waiting until 1pm to be seen.
‘He depends on his wife to drive him to Paisley. This month he has had three appointments and a further appointment next week. This means he will have travelled more than 1,000 miles.
‘They are unable to find accommodation at the rate of £35.70 [understood to be the amount that can be refunded]. The last number of times, accommodation cost £80.
‘There are many people who cannot afford this and will mean people who have not got the money to travel to the hospital will not go.
‘Has there ever been an impact assessment of moving these services away from Oban?
‘I am very concerned that there will be a divide between the rich and the poor, and that people will just not attend appointments. What do you have in place to deal with that?’
Another woman, who said she was involved with looked-after children, said it would not just be the elderly and the infirm who would suffer. She said: ‘Please don’t forget the impact on children, especially those who are looked-after, when people have to get time off to take children to appointments for five minutes.’
Annie MacLeod, locality manager for Oban Lorn and Isles, said: ‘Anyone who is experiencing problems should speak to us.
‘In the future, we will do much more video conferencing for appointments. For example, on Tiree we are planning to offer a midwife service so women can get in touch with us.’
In response to a question about why the public did not know about the removal of the urology service to Glasgow until they read about it in The Oban Times, Mrs MacLeod said: ‘It was discussed last year at the health forum. We wrote to users of the service and told people who used the clinic.
‘If we haven’t got it right, then we need to look at that differently.’
Steven Wiston, head of planning for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said: ‘We want to know about people’s experiences. I have heard so often that people from the islands are offered 9am appointments and this cannot be achieved. People phone up and get the time changed.
‘But if you are having problems, contact us. We need to know about it. I have a commitment from Glasgow and they will look at that.
‘The Highlands and Islands transport scheme attempts to reimburse as closely as possible. It will not cover everything, but that is the resource we have.
‘We want to mitigate that [the cost of accommodation and travel] and improve access to services.’