HEALTH bosses have hit back at claims they have behaved improperly over the future of a cardiac rehabilitation centre.
The We All Need the Heartbeat group is campaigning against a decision by NHS Highland to close the Highland Heartbeat Centre at Raigmore Hospital and recently submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for details of the decision-making process surrounding the closure decision.
Campaigners say that because £750,000 of the total £1.1 million cost of creating the centre came direct from public donations, NHS Highland should have consulted more widely before reaching a decision.
They have also asked questions about what this "repurposing" could mean for the future of other NHS facilities which have been publicly funded, including the new children’s ward at Raigmore.
However, answering a question about when the health board assumed "the moral right to sole control and ownership" of the centre, Raigmore’s deputy director of operations Katherine Sutton said that was not a "fair" way of looking at the situation.
"What we are trying to do is look at our overall responsibility to ensure best use is made of all resources, including the clinical space on the hospital site at Raigmore, as well as in Inverness, to deliver the required care for all patients," she said.
"NHS Highland would present a counter argument that we have every right and indeed responsibility to always be looking at how resources are used, new ways of working and enhancing equity of service."
Arguing that it was "not unreasonable" that services might need to change a decade on, she admitted: "It may well be that this needs to be made clearer for future fundraising efforts that a change in use, such as in this case, is quite possible after a period of time."
NHS Highland previously apologised for poor communication around the closure for both staff and patients.
In a letter published in today’s Highland News (page 14), city resident Ned Larkin suggests NHS Highland’s approach could have an impact on future fundraising efforts.
"NHS Highland is heavily reliant on the charity and generosity of the people of the Highlands," he said.
"Is this generosity likely to continue if ‘repurposing’ is to become a routine policy?
"The Archie Foundation helped to raise £2 million from public generosity and this funded a new children’s unit in Raigmore.
"How soon before this facility for children is ‘repurposed’ away from children? How soon before Joe Public looks at a charity tin and says: ‘Today you’re saying it’s for an oncology unit, but what will it be tomorrow when you’ve got the money and the asset in place?’"
Under current NHS Highland plans, the Heartbeat Centre will close in May though assurances have been given that it will not happen until alternative facilities are in place.