MORE than 5000 people have signed a petition in just 48 hours after it emerged that a children’s ward will have to close to inpatients for the third time in six years.
Thousands flocked to sign the “Save Our Kids Ward” petition after it was announced the paediatric ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston would close to inpatients from July 7 due to a staffing crisis.
From this date onwards the ward will operate as an assessment unit during the day, with children being seen in the hospital’s emergency unit overnight and at weekends.
A petition launched by Labour’s Neil Findlay has now gained almost 5500 signatures, a response which the Lothian MSP called “phenomenal”.
He said: “In 48 hours we have seen almost 5500 people sign the petition – that shows the strength of feeling and disappointment that people have in regard to what’s happening.
“I’ll be making the government very much aware of the strength of feeling in the local community.
“This is the third time that this has happened so this isn’t a one-off incident.
“It really does shows how incapable both NHS Lothian and the government seem to be at addressing the staffing issues here.
“We were told that all of these matters had been resolved and very clearly they haven’t been.”
The decision from NHS Lothian means any children who need to be admitted will be transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
The hospital was hit by similar summer shutdowns in 2012 and 2015, with Mr Findlay saying there was sense of “real anger and disappointment” at the latest development.
He added: “We want to know when it will re-open again as normal because at the moment there’s no end date on that.
“Secondly we want a system put in place that ensures that when doctors go on holiday that there’s cover and the system ensures that services can be provided round the clock.
“In this day and age that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
NHS Lothian’s chief officer of acute services, Jacquie Campbell, said the issue had been caused by being unable to “reliably secure the levels of staffing required overnight and at weekends to guarantee a safe service”.
She said: “If we don’t make changes now to the operating hours of the children’s ward, we run the risk of having to make an unplanned closure at a few hours’ notice, which would lead to the sudden diversion of patients.
“This reduction in opening hours is the safest option for the children of West Lothian.
“We are committed to reinstating the full service as soon as possible after the summer and will be working with the Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to review the steps we have taken and to identify what else can be done to guarantee safe, sustainable staffing for this service.”