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A PACKED public meeting agreed to give health chiefs a chance to consider proposals to safeguard the future of a threatened Dunoon care home. Around 100 attended the Monday meeting, organised by Dunoon Community Council, at Dunoon Grammar School.

Speakers Kenneth Matheson of Dunoon Community Council, Michael Russell MSP and Max Barr of Struan Lodge Development Group spoke to plans to save the valued facility, and urged the community to give the health board a chance to consider proposals laid out by Mr Barr.

Members of the Integration Joint Board (IJB) were in the audience.

Mr Matheson began by saying: “You will have heard the expression ‘lightening never strikes twice’ – try telling that to the residents and families of Struan Lodge.”

The care home faced a 2013 attempt to close it, and a current attempt to close the residential facility is ‘on pause’ due to public and political pressure.

Max Barr, chair of Struan Lodge Development Group, then presented a document – A Strategy for Integrated Adult Care­ – to the meeting. It proposes, over the ‘medium to long term’ developing both Struan Lodge and Dunoon Hospital into an ‘integrated centre of expertise for multiple categories of adult life and end-of-life care’.

The ambitious paper also proposes increasing the capacity of Struan Lodge to 50 beds and building sheltered housing on the site. Also proposed is a training facility for care providers and tailored day care facilities for the over-65s.

Mr Barr’s publication points to projections from the National Registers for Scotland that, by 2039 the Argyll and Bute population of over-75s will have increased by a staggering 80 per cent.

Mr Barr told the meeting – and the gathered embers of the IJB: “Let’s start thinking of ways to raise money – let’s start thinking differently.

“The site has an excellent history, let’s find a way to give it an excellent future.”

Mr Barr concluded: “We will happily work with the IJB, if they show a professionalism that has so far been lacking.”

Commending Mr Barr’s proposals, Michael Russell MSP urged working constructively with the IJB to accept the development group’s proposals.

He said: “Here we have an excellent set of ideas, and now they need to go to the next step.

“let’s not take the irrevocable step of stopping doing something – let’s look at these proposals, at least on a year-to-year basis.

“Let’s find a way for the community council, Struan Lodge Development Group and IJB to work together. Let’s have the goodwill to take these plans forward and at least talk about it.”

The MSP continued: “I think the IJB would be well-advised to grab this with both hands. If we could do that tonight without recriminations that would be a great step forward.”

After a number of members of the public praised Mr Barr’s proposals the members of the IJB sitting in the front row were asked to speak.

On their behalf, Allen Stevenson said: “I can commit to taking this proposal back and looking at it carefully.

“We only received it just before this meeting so we need to look at it in detail – but we are absolutely committed to looking at this along with the community council and the development group.”

Mr Russell responded: “People now expect you [the IJB] to work seriously on this. I commend Max and the community council for their work.” Mr Russell then gave a commitment to give a copy of the document to the health minister the following morning.

The IJB’s ‘pause’ on closing Struan Lodge has just over three months to run. Hard, and quick, work will need to be done to save the facility.

Kenny Matheson, community council convenor, accepted a unanimous vote to agree to work with the IJB to make Mr Barr’s plan

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