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Specialist physiotherapist Marga Prouty jetted more than 3,561 miles with husband Alex to find a home in Oban so she can start work here in August.
But so far the Michigan mum-of-four’s search has failed to come up trumps and the clock is ticking.
Marga still hopes with the help of the community, she will find a home to buy, or initially rent, big enough to fit herself, Alex, mum Hazel and three of their children – Asher, 19, who will be applying for university and Josephine, 15 and sister Eva, 17 who will be joining Oban High School.
Marga’s future boss Derek Laidler who is the physio team leader at the Lorn and Islands Hospital and professional physiotherapy lead for Argyll & Bute says the lack of housing, especially for key workers coming to Oban, is at a critical level and has hit his department hard.
One physio is still living in a B&B using up most of her salary, another was offered a place to rent at £1,200 a month plus bills.
It has taken two years to find the best candidate to fill the specialist neuro-rehab post and Derek says he does not want to lose Marga.
‘I’ve put out requests for help before and Oban is always brilliant in helping offer temporary accommodation but this issue of housing is a much bigger problem that needs a bigger more permanent solution.
‘We see a lot of people with MS and are experiencing an increased number of people having strokes in Oban in the past couple of years in particular. Marga’s skills are exactly what we need here. She would be perfect. We want to provide this kind of specialised neuro-rehab service but at the moment we are not. If we want this service we have to find accommodation for the people who can deliver it.
‘We want to be able to support people in our area who need the help Marga can give them, we don’t want them to have to go to Glasgow for it,’ said Derek who wants to see more housing put aside for key workers to make recruiting easier.
Argyll Health & Social Care Partnership has secured four two-bed houses for staff in Oban to rent while house-hunting but the condition is tenants can only stay six months to give others the same opportunity.
‘Something bigger needs to be done to help this situation. At the moment our workers get 15 points towards their credits on Argyll’s housing list. I think you need about 100 points to be anywhere near the top,’ added Derek.
West Highland housing Association’s chief executive officer Lesley McInnes said: ‘All of us are very aware of the pressures on housing and Oban is an area that is of significant interest for people wanting to move to the area for work. It is worth saying that the housing being delivered by Link Group at Dunbeg is one of the largest housing developments in Scotland and by the end of this phase of work 300 households will have been housed.
‘The houses are coming off in phases and the next phase will be ready towards the end of June. West Highland through the work with HOMEArgyll have a local lettings initiative to house people in Dunbeg and this initiative gives priority to people either working in jobs or coming for jobs that are key to the local infrastructure so health, social care, police, bus drivers, CalMac are all examples of people who have benefited– a total of 34 houses so far have been allocated in Dunbeg, under this initiative. We are working on a number of other initiatives with health and social care and the police and would welcome conversations with other groups.
‘In addition, West Highland and Link are presently the only housing organisations that provide affordable housing for sale through the Scottish Governments scheme. There will be a number of those in Dunbeg and West Highland are completing ones in Islay.’
Meanwhile Marga’s search continues.
‘We’ve visited Scotland twice before and fell in love with the country and its people. On a whim I looked up physio jobs on the NHS Highland jobs site and saw this one in Oban. I called Derek up and that was the beginning of it all – way back in January.
‘The visas are all in process, our house goes on the market this month and could take just weeks to sell. We’ve been looking for a place to rent or buy everywhere possible including putting out a plea on Information Oban. My family are spending as much time as I am looking and they are getting nervous about it. They are all excited about moving to Oban but are worried where we will live, it’s emotionally like entering a blackhole.
‘I love being able to give people their lives back with these specialist tools I have in my skill box and I desperately want to be able to do this here in Oban,’ said Marga.
Anyone who can help should contact Derek Laidler at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at the physio department on 01631 788983.