“Margaret Kerr would have been appalled”

A Selkirk woman preparing for the death of her husband has questioned NHS Borders’ decision to move end-of-life patients from the Margaret Kerr Unit in order to house Covid-19 patients.

By Kevin Janiak
Friday, 30th October 2020, 2:22 pm
Les Ross, pictured with grandchildren Freya and Conal.
Les Ross, pictured with grandchildren Freya and Conal.

Janet Ross, whose husband Les was receiving end-of-life care at the specialist centre – which was built seven years ago, costing £4million – says she arrived to visit him one morning three weeks ago to find his room all packed up. Les and other patients in the facility had been moved to ward 12 in the main body of the hospital.

She said: “That facility was bequeathed the money by a lady called Margaret Kerr, who was a nurse. She wanted this for people with cancer so they can have a better ending.

“It’s been publicly funded, and although it has received money from the NHS as well, but I question the need for this move.

Les Ross in his rugby playing days in Hawick.

“We were given no warning this was happening, although I did think it might be a possibility.

“The staff in the ward were dropped in this from a height as well.

“My issue is not with the staff on the ward, who are fantastic ... it’s the senior management who seem to have decided my husband’s life is worth less than someone with Covid-19.

“People shouldn’t be made to feel like that.

“Ward 12 is extremely noisy. Les was put into a ward of four beds, but is now in a bay on his own.”

Les, originally from Hawick, who turns 69 on November 5, was diagnosed with a brain tumour three years ago, and was given one to two years to live.

Janet said: “He’s done remarkably well ... he’s had radiotherapy and chemo tablets, but we’re now in the last few days of his life.

“Every day, I’m walking through these long, lonely corridors, having to run the gauntlet of loads of people through the ward, whereas at Margaret Kerr, you can just walk straight out.

“It’s inappropriate and untenable for families of patients nearing the end of their lives.

“I would like to know the full reasons for this decision as no-one will tell me.”

She added: “I know it’s very difficult. I was a volunteer last year on ward nine, so I know how these wards work.

“I know how cash-strapped they are and how short-staffed they are.

“I think Margaret Kerr, who bequeathed the money for the unit, would be absolutely appalled at people being turned out.”

NHS Borders confirmed this morning that patients in both the Margaret Kerr Unit and the stroke unit were moved out to make space for Covid patients. It also claimed that the moves were carried out with the full involvement of patients and their families.

A spokesperson for the health authority told us: “As was the case during the initial wave of Covid-19, The Margaret Kerr Unit and Borders Stroke Unit have again become the designated inpatient wards for our patients who are suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19.

“The Margaret Kerr Unit’s size, single rooms and location in the hospital make it well-placed for limiting the risk of exposing other patients and staff unnecessarily to Covid-19.

“Following feedback and learning from the initial acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, and after discussion with the specialist palliative care and stroke teams, both teams have moved together to Ward 12.

“These moves were carried out with the full involvement of patients, their families and carers.

“Although their location within the hospital is different, the work and high quality of care delivered to patients remains the same.”