SENIOR Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny says the health secretary is committed to keeping Inverclyde Royal's ICU open following a face to face meeting.

Mr McEleny held crunch talks with Jeane Freeman over the fears of 11,000 local people and called for a u-turn over the closure of the unit.

He took the message from concerned frontline hospital staff, patients, unions and politicians from all parties and none that intensive care treatment must be reinstated at the hospital.

It comes after the Tele recently revealed how ICU staff were given only hours notice that patients would be transferred to Glasgow.

Following the face to face Councillor McEleny says Ms Freeman will now demand answers from the health board.

Councillor McEleny said: "I had a very positive meeting with the health secretary and I would like to thank her for seeing me on the same day as she attended a COBRA meeting with the First Minister and the Prime Minister on the pandemic.

"She is committed to Inverclyde Royal and keeping the ICU open.

"I am confident that we will have an ICU in Inverclyde and it will stay open.

"I also wanted reassurances that the future of the hospital is safe.

"The health secretary will now ask the health board to explain their actions and the communications strategy over the ICU.

"She will ask them to make clear the terms of the transfers to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital."

The closure of intensive care at the IRH by the health board sparked a massive outcry locally.

Health chiefs took the decision to move all patients in need of invasive ventilation, when more than one organ fails, to the QEUH, only transferring them back to the IRH when they no longer need intensive care.

They say that a 'holding' bed will remain in the unit to care for patients waiting for transfer.

The shift follows measures put in place during Covid-19 pandemic.

The health board says many critically ill Covid-19 patients needed emergency renal care which is no longer supported at IRH.

During the meeting with the health secretary Mr McEleny raised the manner in which the nurses were treated.

He told the health secretary the public has lost confidence in the health board, raising the thousands who signed the petition and the Tele's campaign to save the ICU.

He also expressed the view that the health board had misled the Scottish Government over the change and sought assurances that staff raising concerns would not be targeted by management.

Mr McEleny says ICU can only be classed as open if people can get intensive care treatment at Inverclyde Royal, which is no longer the case.

He said: "Fears have developed in the community over the last twenty years of perceived under investment and scaling back on services.

"We want to ensure that Inverclyde has a hospital fit for purpose that meets the requirements and aspirations of the people of the area."

Bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde deputy medical director has said the changes are to ensure patients safety.

They said: “The critical care team at Inverclyde Royal Hospital is unchanged and they will continue to assess patients in Inverclyde who require critical care services.

"The staff remain in place, within increased senior medical staffing at the weekends.

"All critical care patients will continue to first be assessed and managed at IRH by the relevant clinical team.

“Many of our patients will continue to receive critical care services at IRH in the High Dependency and Coronary Care Units.

"This may include support for breathing problems and circulation support.

"Patients who are found to need Intensive Care Support will be first stabilised locally at IRH and then safely transferred to the QEUH.