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Plans to close Argyll and Bute’s only in-patient dementia assessment ward have been approved – on the same day the ward was designated an emergency centre for COVID-19 patients.
The Knapdale ward, at Mid Argyll Hospital in Lochgilphead, was initially earmarked for closure in January as part of a re-design of dementia services in Argyll and Bute.
A consultation was held and this was discussed at a meeting of the integration joint board (IJB) on Wednesday.
Councillor Kieron Green, IJB chairman, wanted to delay making a decision due to the current coronavirus pandemic but a sufficient number of members were in favour of deciding on the day.
The board agreed the ward will not close until new facilities are established, while the Health and Social Care Partnership will work with the families of current dementia patients to provide alternative care.
Councillor Green said in light of the operational update on the ward being designated for COVID-19 use, his opinion was that now was not the right time to be making policy decisions.
‘I am in agreement with lots of the conclusions but I don’t think now is the time,’ he said.
Betty Rhodick, a public representative on the IJB, added: ‘With Knapdale now allocated for COVID-19 patients I feel it is right to delay the decision until this emergency has passed.
‘We don’t have a magic wand and can’t tell how long these restrictions will continue.
‘Argyll and Bute is in a unique area and what works in the central belt will not necessarily work here.’
But Councillor Gary Mulvaney, Argyll and Bute Council’s depute leader, wanted to make the decision there and then.
He said: ‘We took a decision in January to go out to consultation and I was sceptical as to how much consulting we would be able to do, but I am pleased our officers rose to the challenge.
‘To me, the issue is we need to deliver better care, better service and better provision, from a clinical point of view.
‘We have the operational decision that has been taken, meaning there will be no patients other than COVID-19 patients and having completed the consultation, we need to get on and deliver the changes we promised.
‘It would be disappointing today if we did not make a decision as a board and give leadership to our officers.’
Council leader Aileen Morton added: ‘I appreciate the situation with COVID-19, but if we take no decision today, that will not be helpful.
‘There is a real need to get this to move forward and it will take a long time.
‘Clearly the top priority is COVID-19 but I would prefer to approve, knowing this will be a lengthy process and will be delayed as a result of COVID-19.’
Councillor Green concluded the consensus was to agree to the recommendation to approve the planned closure of Knapdale to move to an enhanced community dementia model, noting the process may take more than a year to implement.
Ms Rhodick said: ‘They must look at how Knapdale can be used in local services, as it will still need to be paid for.’