Lochgelly Health Centre: staff reveal reality of working in ‘awful’ building

Staff at Lochgelly Health Centre have spoken of poor working conditions at the crumbling building – and say a new facility is desperately needed to attract new doctors and members of staff.
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They spoke at Tuesday's packed public meeting which discussed demanded the £13m capital funding needed to replace the centre on David Street be found after the Scottish Government kicked it into the long grass.

Alex Rowley MSP, (Mid Scotland and Fife, Labour), called the meeting to “plan the next steps and help build a campaign to secure the needed funding” - and there was talk of a peaceful demonstration when Michael Mathieson, Cabinet Secretary, comes to visit the centre on September 4.

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The reality of working in the centre was revealed by the staff members who were among the more than 130 people who attended the meeting.

Meadow's Practice manage Michelle Herd, receptionist Amy Olszok, and Jennifer Lyle (Pic: Danyel VanReenen)Meadow's Practice manage Michelle Herd, receptionist Amy Olszok, and Jennifer Lyle (Pic: Danyel VanReenen)
Meadow's Practice manage Michelle Herd, receptionist Amy Olszok, and Jennifer Lyle (Pic: Danyel VanReenen)

“The building we’re in now is just awful. It’s not fit for purpose and it’s not been fit for purpose in a very long time,” Amy Olszok, a Meadows GP receptionist said.

“A lot of people in the area say they can’t get seen by a doctor, but we have no further room for more doctors or patients. There’s no physical space whatsoever.”

Chelsea Hodge, another receptionist, has been with the practice since February. She said it will never attract new doctors as it is.

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“Who would want to come into a building like that, who would want to be employed there? The staff are brilliant and the doctors are brilliant, but who would want to walk in and be employed there as a new doctor?” she said.

This was also one of Mr Rowley’s key points during the public meeting. Dr Kenneth Thompson, a doctor at the Lochgelly Health Centre agreed that a new centre is absolutely necessary for attracting new doctors.

“There are more practices in Fife and Tayside that have shut in the last five years than I’ve been aware of in the last 40,” he explained.

“Many are closing because a partner retires and they can’t recruit a new doctor because there’s a shortage. Ones my age are now retiring and younger ones are not coming into the profession. If you have a nice, modern facility to come to, you’ll attract more staff. As Kevin Costner said: ‘if you build it they will come.’”

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In addition to recruitment, Michelle Herd, practice manager, said the current building is simply not big enough to accommodate the needs of the community.

According to Ms Herd, the practice has been busier than ever since the start of the pandemic, but there is no room to bring in other services to help people because there’s simply not enough room.

“We cannot bring any more services in to help people because there’s nowhere to put them,” she said.

Meadows receptionist Jennifer Lyle agreed that there’s not enough space in the current building and said working conditions are not ideal.

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“In winter time the staff are frozen - I wouldn’t like to be a patient going into the room. Some of the time we’re absolutely cooked to death. There’s no windows, ventilation, nothing,” she said. “We’ve been getting reassured for years and nothing’s happened. Until we see a positive building, then it’s just all hearsay.”

NHS Fife promised to replace the David Street facility by 2019, but work never started. Earlier this year, it was kicked into the long grass after a decision by the Scottish Government to adopt a phased approach to capital expenditure meant it couldn't be delivered within planned timescales, with no further updates planned until 2025.

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