New £15m hospital project is welcomed
THE doors of the new Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital are provisionally due to open at the beginning of 2021.
NHS Highland purchased the 3.49 hectare site at the north end of Aviemore for £550,000 from Reidhaven Estates at the start of last week.
The project was first mooted in 2011.
St Vincent's Hospital in Kingussie and Ian Charles Hospital in Grantown will close their doors when the new facility opens. NHS bosses have said they are currently working on a transition programme.
Gavin Miles, the Cairngorms National Park Authority's (CNPA) head of planning, said the development is "intended to be a very welcoming facility for everyone".
He described it as a "really good scheme" and told planning committee members: "The site has been allocated for economic development and has been for a very long time.
"It has had no real interest from any business at all as far as we are aware. This is the first proposal for the site.
"Obviously it is not a business in the conventional sense but it a site of employment and will be a very important facility for the community."
Mr Miles described the hospital as being "stretched" because of the constraints of the site's boundaries but the design breaks up the building "so it not just one large block".
Some 400 trees will be planted to compensate for those lost in construction. There will be a turf roof over part of the building.
Mr Miles said: "In the long run the hospital is going to sit very well at the site and blend into it very nicely."
The only real concern flagged up during the half-hour of discussion at the Cairngorm Hotel was by member William Munro who questioned if the proposed minimum of 128 parking spaces would meet peak demand.
He feared parking issues could shift the problem onto nearby streets.
"Car parking at hospitals is a notorious problem all over the country," he said.
"A robust piece of work has been done but it is absolutely to the wire and only needs a few of the assumptions to be wrong for it to be inadequate."
He added: "It would be such a shame if such an investment in the strath and a superb facility ends up having a negative around it if people find it difficult to park."
Mr Miles said parking provision had been discussed at great length and all partners were content with the number.
A plan is in place by Highland Council to monitor parking and he highlighted the location is accessible on foot for most Aviemore residents.
"It is more central than many of the other sites that had been considered," observed Mr Miles.
Xander McDade, park convener, said: "I have a lot of experience of visiting community hospitals as I'm on the board of Perth and Kinross (healthcare trust) and the design of this one and the flow of it will work excellently."
On parking concerns, he said: "This is the most parking I have ever seen at a community hospital."
Peter Argyle said to have an application for the centre of Aviemore with not one objection was a credit to NHS Highland, CNPA planners and the community.
Carolyn Caddick said she particularly liked the fact the design is taking patients' needs into account.
She said: "I spent some time with my mother when she was in Raigmore Hospital and it was really difficult to get patients out into a nice place other than the car park."
Kenny Rodgers, NHS head of finance, said after the meeting: "We are particularly pleased with the positive response we have had from the planning committee.
"We certainly were not expecting to hear it in such glowing terms. It reflects the hard work that has gone in not just from the design team and NHS Highland staff but also the communities who have supported us.
"Local people have had a real say in how this building will look and what is important to them."
Senior project manager Heather Cameron said: "The hospital consolidates in-patient care for the whole strath and allows us to focus more on delivery of care in the community and care homes services.
"It is part of a wider re-design of services and that has already seen the opening of a step up-step down bed at the Wade Centre in Kingussie and two more are planned for Grant House in Grantown."
Facilities on offer
The community hospital and medical practice will feature:
• 24 inpatient beds and 12 consulting/treatment rooms in Aviemore Medical Practice
• Three minor injuries/out-of-hours treatment rooms
• A new ambulance base
• X-ray facilities
• Outpatient department with six consulting/clinic rooms, a group therapy room, physiotherapy gym, podiatry and dental rooms
• Bases for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, speech and language and dietetics
• Office for NHS Highland community integrated teams and Highland Council care and learning staff
• Therapy garden
• Transport hub with a drop-off area at the front entrance for commercial buses, community and local transport providers
£15m hospital plan set for green light