The chairman of the health board has given his strongest assurance yet that there are no plans to close Hawick Community Hospital, and stated there is no “hidden agenda”.
And the pledge, which was given on behalf of NHS Borders by chairman John Raine at a board meeting last Friday where a proposed review of services was approved, has been fully accepted by local officials.
Fears that Hawick Community Hospital, along with those in Peebles, Duns and Kelso, may face closure, were raised at the end of last year after it was announced that NHS Borders was assessing the way it provided its services - leading to a public outcry and the launch of a petition which gathered more than 4.000 signatures.
But last Friday at the board’s latest public meeting, chairman Mr Raine appeared to finally rule out any doubt that Hawick Community Hospital faced the axe. “There is no plan to close community hospitals and no hidden agenda”, he stated.
And such straight-talking has been welcomed by local Councillor Ron Smith, who has previously said that losing the hospital was “inconceivable”. “This is clearly reassuring and I am quite happy with that”, he told the Hawick News. “We have heard this for several weeks now and I find that encouraging.”
And this sentiment is shared by fellow councillor Stuart Marshall, who had also voiced vehement opposition to any closure threat, who stated: “When you get news like this straight from the horse’s mouth, then I have no reason to doubt the comments made by Mr Raine. I would like to think that the thousands who signed the petition have sent a very loud and clear message to NHS Borders, that even to consider such an action, would be met either now or indeed at anytime in the future with great protest.”
Mr Raine has stressed that any changes to health services will take “full account” of what people have to say and what is important to them.
Councillor Smith added: “It may even be that there is a positive in all of this and that services are possibly added. I would hope the review would recognise the quality of services at Hawick Community Hospital, which could lead to an expansion of its provision.”