At his first candidacy hustings back in 2015 when Neil Gray promised to deliver a new hospital to replace Monklands Hospital we all laughed. We’re not laughing now. The news which broke over the weekend that Gartcosh was the preferred site for a replacement hospital has gone down like a cup of cold sick and no wonder. Looking about the town, seeing one closed shop after another, and then seeing another major employer about to leave could prove to be the death knell for Airdrie.
Glenmavis as an alternative is not ideal, but at least it retains the Health Service footprint in roughly the same area, primarily serving Airdrie, Coatbridge and Cumbernauld, even if the public transport links are pitiful. Can anyone explain to us the logic in moving the hospital from the centre of North Lanarkshire to the western border, where in all likelihood it will become the A&E hospital of choice for the residents of the east of Glasgow? The current site is centrally located, has a rail link, bus links and is within walking distance for many people from Airdrie and Coatbridge. Moving it to Gartcosh will put it in walking distance for people from Gartcosh, and that’s about it. At a time when we are trying to reduce reliance on cars and move people to public transport this makes absolutely no sense! I checked the Traveline Scotland website journey planner and a trip to Gartcosh from Airdrie either involves an expensive series of bus journeys using multiple companies with incompatible ticketing systems or getting a train to Bellgrove in Glasgow then another back to Gartcosh! How does that help the poorest in our society who are less likely to own a car? There is a direct rail line which runs from Coatbridge to Gartcosh with a mere 5 minute journey time, but there are no passenger trains running on it, so either way our local hospital will now be over an hour away by public transport and this is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately it seems it is now health board policy to build new facilities where they aren’t within walking distance to deter use.
Having lived in Edinburgh for a time I know that there is nothing unusual with a health board spreading its services across multiple locations. The difference is that they have a cheap and integrated transport infrastructure to support that. North Lanarkshire’s shambolic, haphazard system doesn’t, and it’s one of the prime reasons why Monklands Hospital must stay in it’s present location or at worst Glenmavis.
Our town is on life support, and this would finally pull the plug. Our elected representatives, Neil Gray MP in particular, who opened this can of worms, must now stand up for Airdrie not only to retain our hospital, but to give us a joined up local transport system so it accessible by all the residents of Lanarkshire who rely on it, not just car owners.