South Scotland MSP and Shadow Health Minister Colin Smyth has urged NHS Dumfries and Galloway not to press ahead with the closure of Lochside Dental Clinic- after Dumfries and Galloway Health Care Partnership only voted narrowly last week not to oppose the closure.
The final decision on closure will be made by the NHS Dumfries and Galloway Board at their meeting on 7 August and the local MSP has appealed to the Board to recognise that an overall majority of the ten Health Partnership voting members didn’t back the closure.
The vote at the Health Partnership meeting was 5 votes to 4 against blocking the closure. It was reported that the tenth voting member, Conservative Councillor Ian Carruthers controversially LEFT the meeting just minutes before the vote. Had he stayed and voted in support of keeping the clinic open the vote would have been tied at 5 votes all. As the Chair of the Partnership does not have a casting vote, it would have meant the Partnership had not voted for closure.
Colin Smyth said:
“Everyone appreciates that a lack of funding from the Scottish Government leaves NHS Dumfries and Galloway with a £20m blackhole but this closure will save pennies and filling their funding gap by attacking one of our most deprived communities is not the answer. The Health Board have the final decision at their meeting on 7 August and I would appeal to them to recognise that there is not an overall majority within the local health partnership in support of this closure. In fact, had Conservative Councillor Ian Carruthers stayed for a few more minutes at the meeting and voted to keep the clinic open, instead of walking out just before the vote then it would not be facing closure. The Conservative Group Leader has serious questions to answer as to why he failed to vote. This is one of the most important decisions the new Integrated Joint Board have had to make, and it’s certainly the most controversial so you would have thought all members with a vote would made every effort to take part in. If Ian Carruthers couldn’t stay for the whole meeting he knows perfectly well he could easily have appointed a substitute. Given that it was clear from the debate that the result was going to be very close and his vote would make all the difference, it looks as if Councillor Carruthers left the meeting knowing his actions would lead to the likely closure of the clinic and that is frankly disgusting. He should do the decent thing and resign from the Board because it’s clear he doesn’t take his role seriously.”
North West Dumfries Councillor Ronnie Nicholson echoed the disgust at Councillor Carruthers conduct and urged him to quit- or be sacked by the Tory Group on the Council.
Councillor Nicholson said:
“Conservative MSPs and MPs Finlay Carson, Oliver Mundell and Alastair Jack all told campaigners against the closure they supported the clinic remaining open and would write to the Health Board and Partnership opposing closure. It is therefore appalling that it looks as if the clinic will close as a direct result of their own Conservative group leader walking out of the meeting. Councillor Carruthers has form when it comes to this as he often walks out of council meetings, only staying long enough just so his attendance is registered. It shows the ineffectiveness of our Tory MSPs and MPs when they can’t even convince one of their own members to support their views. Councillor Carruthers really does have no choice but to resign. If the Conservative Group don’t sack him from the post then it will show real contempt for the people of North West Dumfries”.