19.2 C
Saturday, April 13, 2024
HomeHealth & FitnessThe Scottish islands desperately seeking doctors

The Scottish islands desperately seeking doctors

There is no doubt the isles of Barra and Vatersay are beautiful places. On the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, they are home to about 1,300 islanders.

But remoteness also means challenges providing healthcare to a population that is a one-hour flight or a six-hour drive from the nearest A&E.

There has been no permanent doctor on the two Hebridean islands since last summer and while two posts have now been advertised, the community fears it will be a struggle to attract the right type of medical professionals who are a lifeline to the islands.

In 2020, early in the Covid pandemic, Sandy Maclean was working on his tractor when its wheel blew and threw him across the shed.

The explosion was so ferocious, his wife Kirsty, ran out from the house and when she saw her husband, immediately thought he was dead.

Sandy’s daughter Ishbel, who lives next door, arrived and realised he was severely injured. She started first aid, bandaging his head in sheets and towels to stem a major bleed.

She told BBC Scotland: “It was all very quick, and yet not quick at the same time. The paramedics arrived and they could tell it was bad so he got bundled into the ambulance and taken three miles up the road to the hospital.”

St Brendan’s is a tiny three-bed hospital in Castlebay, the main village on Barra, which is not even equipped with an X-ray machine.


But it is the place where the local doctor tries to keep patient’s stable in an emergency while awaiting the air ambulance to take them to the mainland.

A trauma team from almost 200 miles away in Glasgow was diverted to Barra but had to refuel meaning it was almost five hours before Sandy was helicoptered off the island.

“The only way the trauma team in Glasgow could describe it, was he was like a bomb victim” says Ishbel.

“The neurosurgeon put a massive question mark over how long it took for him to get to her.”


Most Popular