LABOUR’S Scottish health spokesperson has joined his party’s Inverclyde general election candidate on the campaign trail to boost his bid to win the seat.

Anas Sarwar MSP came to Greenock to campaign on behalf of Martin McCluskey and said the district needs an MP who will champion ‘life and death’ issues at Inverclyde Royal
Health board bosses want to close the hospital’s  birthing unit to save money — a decision will be taken next month and then go to the Scottish Government to be ratified or not — and have denied claims they plan to shut the intensive treatment unit (ITU) early next year.

Mr Sarwar was asked what influence a Westminster-based MP could have on health matters, which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

He said: “There’s a key point here.

“Next month you are electing someone who is going to be a champion for Inverclyde.

“Your current MP hasn’t once uttered a word of opposition to cuts at IRH, and that is simply unacceptable and scandalous.

“What this area needs is an MP who will champion local causes and champion what is literally an issue of life and death at the local hospital, and not just be sitting on the sidelines only focusing on another independence referendum.

“These are issues that matter to people.”

Mr McCluskey says many people have commented on the future of hospital services and jobs as he doorsteps residents across the area.

He said: “A nurse told us she is worried about the future of the ITU, because if the health board gets rid of it you can’t do complex surgery, which means you need fewer nurses in theatre.

“Various matters are coming up, not just as health but also employment issues.

“A number of people at IRH are now quite concerned about their jobs.”

Mr Sarwar added: “There is no greater issue for Inverclyde than the NHS and IRH. The health board proposals for the birthing unit could have been stopped in their track by the Scottish Government, but now a decision won’t be taken until after the general election.

“We’re seeing a risk of death by a thousand cuts. There are cuts at the IRH around staffing levels and around maintenance that’s required on the building. Further down the line that allows the government an excuse to say that perhaps a clinic wasn’t safe or there was inadequate staffing, which has happened in other areas, and then look to cut services.

“You can tell by how busy the hospital is that this is a vital local service that delivers for local people every day, and the hospital also provides many jobs for local people who have dedicated their lives to caring for their fellow citizens.

“Everyone deserves the certainty and clarity to know that the hospital’s services and jobs are safe, and that the government will deliver investment for first class 21st century care.”