Late night admissions to Perth Royal Infirmary had to be sent to Dundee this week after the hospital filled up due to a sudden rush of patients.
NHS Tayside management was unable to pinpoint what caused the “exceptional demand” on Sunday and Monday, forcing them to send people to Ninewells Hospital.
All unscheduled admissions to PRI were turned away from 2.30am until lunchtime on Monday, apart from emergencies and those who required urgent care.
This has led to concerns about the sustainability of PRI due to staff shortages across the NHS, but healthcare bosses insisted diverting patients to Dundee is part of contingency plans for high levels of patients.
Professor Peter Stonebridge, NHS Tayside’s medical director for the operational unit, said, “We experienced a period of exceptional demand on our system over a short period of time, when we saw a third more patients than usual referred for admission.
“To ensure we continued to provide a safe and appropriate level of care for our patients, we made the decision to put a temporary divert in place for all unscheduled admissions from Perth Royal Infirmary to Ninewells Hospital from 2.30am on Monday September 3.
“A small number of patients were transferred before arrangements went back to normal at 1.30pm.
“This temporary divert was part of NHS Tayside’s normal business continuity plans, which are in place to cope with exceptional demand and ensure that we continue to provide high quality, sustainable and safe care for our patients.
“Our staff managed the increased patient demand very professionally and we would like to thank them for their exceptional work.”
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Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser suggested the hospital is being downgraded and called on people in Perthshire to sign his “Hands Off PRI” petition against proposals to reduce services at the hospital’s accident and emergency department.
This comes after maternity paediatric and pathology services have been removed in the last 20 years.
“It is extremely concerning to learn that PRI was closed to admissions last week with patients being diverted to Ninewells,” he said.
“These revelations will alarm patients and add further fuel to questions over capacity issues within NHS Tayside.
“Last month independent audits raised concern over ICU bed capacity at Ninewells and here we have the region’s second biggest hospital essentially closed for new patients.
“People across the region quite rightly fear the downgrading of PRI and right now these concerns are proving to be founded in fact.”
Fellow Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith also raised concerns about staffing across Tayside healthcare services.
“This is not the first time we’ve heard of wards refusing unscheduled admissions, but never before has this applied to a whole hospital,” she said.
“Workforce issues are a problem for hospitals across the country and Tayside is no different. However, it would appear as though whenever there is a problem the answer is always to divert patients and operations to Ninewells.
“Many are questioning whether this arrangement is sustainable and it is high time that healthcare bosses outlined detailed plans to deal with chronic workforce planning issues.”
Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said: “It is quite normal that during periods of excessive demand on services, that the local health board would put plans in place to ensure the highest quality care can be delivered safely and with as little delay as possible.
“Local Tory politicians have used this as an excuse to blame NHS Tayside for restructuring that has not yet even been fully implemented.
“I would like to put on record my thanks to all staff members who worked to ensure that emergency admissions at PRI were treated with the highest priority and that patient care remained the number one focus during this period of exceptional demand.”