Health / Councillor ready to campaign for new hospital after seven-week stay in Gilbert Bain

Robbie McGregor was hugely impressed by the standard of care from staff – but said the hospital is ‘well past its sell by date’’

Councillor Robbie McGregor. Photo: Andrew Gibson/Millgaet Media

A SHETLAND councillor has vowed to campaign for a new hospital after spending seven weeks in the Gilbert Bain following a stroke.

Robbie McGregor, who is now in the mend, was full of praise for staff at Shetland’s only hospital.

But the 77-year-old said it was evident during his stay that the Lerwick hospital is no longer fit for purpose.

This included a lack of storage space for equipment and crowded corridors when he was being wheeled around.

A replacement Gilbert Bain Hospital is already on the cards, but the process is in its very early stages.

No site has been publicly earmarked, and it would be a number of years before any construction would actually begin.

McGregor, who is a member of Shetland’s health and care integration joint board and has had a career in pharmacy, also praised how quickly he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.


It was his wife who first raised the alarm, reacting “very, very quickly”.

“I was really impressed with how quickly I got into hospital,” McGregor said. “I hear about the waiting times down south, but I was in hospital within minutes of it happening.”

The SNP councillor also said he “can’t be strong enough in my praise for the way I was treated by the staff” at the hospital.

Back at home recovering after his seven week stay in hospital. Photo: Andrew Gibson/Millgaet Media

“They were totally professional and very, very kind. I won’t forgot that,” he added.

“I think we’re very fortunate to have people of the calibre that we’ve got here.”

But McGregor believes the hospital building itself is “well past its sell by date”.

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The hospital has been operating in its current form since the 1960s but there is little opportunity to keep up with modern standards.

A report to NHS Shetland members back in 2019 said: “The constrained site provides little opportunity for expansion and little or no variation to the layout possible in an attempt to come close to achieving the modern hospital requirements of today.”

When asked what he spotted during his stay, McGregor said: “You notice that there’s no storage for equipment, and when I was getting wheeled down a corridor to go for physiotherapy, it was quite difficult to get around some of the equipment that was having to be stored in corridors.”

The report to health board members in 2019 also noted that within the interiors of the building electrics, heating and pipework are said to be significantly past their life expectancy.

There are also issues with functionality, the location and size of services within the building and patient privacy.


McGregor also stressed his view that staff need to be consulted when plans are drawn up for a replacement hospital – saying it is “absolutely vital” to the process.

“There’s obvious things like physiotherapy and occupational therapy being close to the wards, that would be quite important, whereas at the moment it’s quite a difference away,” he said.

While no site has been chosen a replacement, the councillor did suggest land in Tingwall could be an option for a new hospital – citing how the Raigmore in Inverness is out of the centre.

The current hospital has an accident and emergency department, two theatres, consultant-led general medical and general surgical ward services and an obstetrician-led maternity unit.

There is also a laboratory and a modern radiology department, which includes a CT service, while other services include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, outpatient clinics, a renal unit and medical physics.


Meanwhile McGregor has been back in the comforts of his home since last week as he recovers from his stroke.

It happened shortly before the first meeting of the new council term, which took place after McGregor was fairly comfortably re-elected in the Shetland South ward.

It would have been a particularly sweet victory given that in 2017 he became Shetland’s first SNP councillor, but without an election, as the south ward was uncontested.

His intention is to get back onto council duties once he has recovered – and through the integration joint board he has pledged to talk about a new hospital “at every opportunity”.

NHS Shetland has been contacted for a response regarding the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

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