Protest plans as meeting demands funding to replace crumbling Fife health centre
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NHS Fife promised to replace the David Street facility by 2019, but work never started - and 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.
The announcement surprised, angered, and disappointed the Lochgelly community, politicians, and health care professionals alike.
Alex Rowley MSP, (Mid Scotland and Fife, Labour), called the public meeting to “plan the next steps and help build a campaign to secure the needed funding.”
“Enough is enough - that is the message from tonight,” he told the Lochgelly community. “We want to see a budget put in place to deliver this health centre. We cannot have promise after promise after promise not being delivered. It’s evident that the people of Lochgelly are absolutely livid and want to see new facilities soon.”
NHS Fife has said the current centre is “functionally inadequate and compromises proactive patient care.”
Dr Kenneth Thompson, who works there, agreed that the building is not fit for purpose and is preventing patients from getting the care they deserve.
“We were told in April 2022 that we’d have a new health centre ready to move in by June 2024. Everyone was looking forward to this because we’re creaking at the seams - there isn’t enough room to provide the health care that Lochgelly deserves,” Dr Thompson said.
The building is not water tight - staff have to put buckets out every time it rains. There are water stains around windows; there is no room for breastfeeding mothers to feed their children in private; carpeting throughout is damp and ineffective for infection control, and Dr Thompson said wheelchair access is "shocking" and "terrible."
“It’s not fit for purpose for anybody. MSPs and MPs wouldn’t sit in a house of parliament with conditions like that,” Dr Thompson said.
“I take the view that the politicians and the ministers in Edinburgh think ‘oh it’s just Lochgelly, let them go, it’s just a wee place in Fife don’t worry about it; we have bigger fish to fry.’ - and I’m here because I’d like to put pressure on the politicians to get this project back on track. I think we need it for lots of reasons.”
Councillor Linda Erskine (Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty, Labour) encouraged the community to get involved in the campaign to fight for a new health centre.
“Politicians have only got a certain amount of leverage. The people have the real power to make the difference," she said.
Councillor Mary Bain Lockhart (Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty, Labour) encouraged the community to “fill the Lochgelly Health Centre car park" during the Cabinet Secretary’s planned visit next month.
“This is not a party political issue. This is a community issue, it’s a social issue and it’s our health issue," she said. "We’ve got to be there backing everything that the local politicians are trying to do and back our doctors who are struggling in a building that is not fit for purpose and knowing that they cannot give to us in that building the health care we need and demand."
“We are not just a wee place on the fringes at the back end of beyond. We are Lochgellians and we can take it to the parliament - and we can make a loud noise and be seen doing it.”
There were a few key suggestions from the meeting. Community members discussed a peaceful demonstration when the Cabinet Secretary comes to visit the centre on September 4.
Mr Rowley invited members of the public to step forward to organise a grass roots community delegation to ensure the people of Lochgelly are heard and represented. He also encouraged attendees to write to their politicians and the Cabinet Secretary to encourage the Scottish Government and NHS Fife to allocate the funding for the health centre as soon as possible.
Following the meeting, NHS Fife released a statement reiterating its commitment to the development of two new purpose-built community health and wellbeing centres in Lochgelly and Kincardine.
Dr Joy Tomlinson, NHS Fife director of public health, said: “The existing buildings are no longer able to meet the evolving health needs of the local populations.
"We are aware, however, that Scottish Government is taking a phased approach to the funding of capital projects, with their position remaining that this cannot be provided until 2026 at the earliest. NHS Fife remains absolutely committed to developing these two new centres at the earliest possible opportunity confirmation that capital funding is available. The board is also in regular dialogue with Scottish Government to clarify the timeframes for funding the projects.”