Local News for Wednesday 16th May 2018

Four go to Moldova
A team of four sets out this morning for Moldova on a mission to take better emergency services to impoverished communities there. The trip is co-ordinated between Blythswood Care and the Scottish Emergency Rescue Association, with three retained firefighters from Stornoway Fire Station – Iain Murray, Alex Maclennan and David Campbell – heading for Edinburgh today. They’re travelling in a ‘retired’ fire engine which has been refurbished and equipped on the island as part of a convoy of five, due to set out from Edinburgh tomorrow morning. Meanwhile long-time Blythswood supporter Charlie Nicolson flies today from Stornoway, via Glasgow and Bucharest, to meet the SERA crew at the Romanian border before heading to Nisporeni in Moldova. There, fire crew training will be given to 40 Moldovan volunteers, together with safety training in schools and other volunteer support. The team return to Stornoway at the end of May. The whole expedition is part of a long-standing project organised by SERA to take emergency equipment from Scotland to communities where it can be used even after its service life here has ended. It also cements a regular link between the Isle of Lewis and the town of Nisporeni in Moldova.

Health Board quizzed in Parliament
Representatives of NHS Western Isles were at Holyrood yesterday, being quizzed by the Health and Sport Committee as they continue their scrutiny of NHS Boards with information sessions on NHS Orkney, NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles. Board chairman Neil Galbraith and Chris Anne Campbell, Nurse Director / Chief Operating Officer, were asked questions to assess if priorities are being met on recruitment and retention, sickness absence and how technology and innovation is being used to improve geographical challenges. The session was streamed live on Parliament TV and covered a range of issues including patient travel, the use of technology or so-called ‘tele-medicine’ to reduce travel costs. Speaking for NHS Western Isles, Mr Galbraith said: “There’s a vast difference in reality amongst the islands. Our communications are with the northern region and with Glasgow – many of our Barra patients go straight to Glasgow rather than coming up to Stornoway. We’re dealing with a string of islands and are trying to make sure the NHS is giving a quality output no matter where the people live in the islands. Sending people as we do to the mainland we have to consider the costs that are involved – not so much the cost of patient travel but the cost of escorts. We’re now applying the existing policy and rules as they should be applied and that is producing a number of complaints.”

Tourism body – ferries crisis ‘costing £6 million”
Outer Hebrides Tourism has called time on a Scottish Government Minister, after the deadline expired for Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands to respond to an appeal for help on the ferries issue. OHT’s executive committee said they had been told by the MSP’s office to expect a response within 20 working days – a deadline which has now passed. The committee have asked the Minister to personally intervene on issues around the current disruptions in ferry service, especially to the isles of Uist and Barra. They also raised reported construction delays to two new ferries, saying: “No-one is even able to provide a date when the new Uig triangle ferry will enter service.” The OHT statement said: “OHT believe that current ferry operational issues are costing the Outer Hebrides up to £6m. Longer term delays in delivering new vessels are restricting our ability to grow the tourism sector, create opportunities and retain young people on the islands. We must raise this issue of significant concern to our tourism businesses but media coverage is seriously impacting peoples’ decisions to visit the islands this summer. Notwithstanding, the Outer Hebrides remains a stunning place for tourists to visit and enjoy, however they travel to get here.