A nursing director has defended the health board’s decision to mothball the rehabilitation unit within the Gilbert Bain’s Ronas Ward.
It comes in the week that NHS Shetland revealed it would not be admitting any new patients to the unit as it redeployed workers in a bid to address a staffing crisis within the hospital.
Ronas Ward has been under the spotlight for several months since health bosses expressed a desire to move towards more community-based care.
This week a member of staff spoke out following a meeting with director of nursing and acute services, Kathleen Carolan.
The worker was concerned that staff were being moved, and Ronas Ward was – in effect – being closed to save money, when the changes had not initially been seen as a cost-cutting exercise.
Now, Ms Carolan has responded to those views.
“I spoke to staff who work on the rehabilitation unit last Friday to explain that we would be using the winter capacity plan – which the board and the integrated joint board agreed in October 2016 – to ensure that we have safe staffing levels in place across the hospital, because we have a number of key vacancies,” she said.
“To achieve safe staffing levels, we will be consolidating our in-patient care into the acute wards on a temporary basis. Some staff will also be covering vacancies in the day surgery unit and in the out-patient department.
“The purpose of meeting with staff early is to ensure that we have time to pre-plan the transition of staff from the rehabilitation unit to cover the vacancies in other wards and departments across the hospital.
“Over the next few weeks we will be identifying which vacancies staff would like to cover, based on their skills and to some extent their preferences. We are meeting with staff on a one to one basis to work through these issues and staff are already starting to come forward to make individual plans.
“Our staff are aware that we are using our nurses flexibly to maintain high-quality patient care across the hospital and whilst this will mean changes for some staff in terms of their pattern of working, everyone understands that this is part of our planned response to manage the workforce gaps that we have in the hospital.”
She said nurses had approached this in a professional and helpful manner – “as they always do, when asked to respond to supporting requests to work flexibly”.