Thursday 01/12/05

Quiet morning with the well-boat coming off the Goat Island slipway. Muirneag came in in good time. It's the SFPA boat which is coming to visit. A man goes out into the basin at low tide to pick winkles. Head into town for a big wad of papers, which bring more tales of scandal for the local health service. Two things are taking place at the same time: the Xmas lights will be switched on at 7.30, and a meeting is convened by WIHB to explain their future policies. I get a lift to the Caberfeidh Hotel. Am redirected to the Mermaid Lounge, round the side, which is packed out. WIHB Chief Executive, Mr Dick Manson, gives a presentation for the future direction that the NHS in these islands will take. It boils down to the same workload to be done by fewer people, less qualified and away from the hospital. It sounded so nice and well thought through, until the jarring interludes came, provided courtesy of local councillors, representatives from the nursing staff and the Western Isles MP. The nurses alleged that the Health Board ran a rule of fear, Stalinism, corrupt and devoid of any decency. The MP queried the lack of morale and the excessive costs of locums. The councillors demanded to know why vacancies were left unfilled for a long time. I have to report that the Chief Executive, although well aware of the malcontent in his ranks, never spoke up on the subject. He did not even acknowledge that there was a problem, and left it to his lieutenants to answer all the nasty questions. My pen ran out after 70 minutes, but I managed to engrave notes into my notebook, oh dear. Left at 8pm to go to An Lanntair to see the film Rocket Post. This is a very pleasant filming of the failed efforts by German rocket scientist Gerhard Zucher to establish a viable postal link between Scarp and Harris by rocket. The rocket he used exploded

scattering all the mail over the beach. The story was well written, filmed with the fantastic backdrop of the North Harris mountains, well known to yours truly. Great!

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