09:00 - 28 June 2002
A highland holiday home, which has provided respite care for people with multiple sclerosis for 20 years, is due to close later this year.
Twenty-five jobs are expected to be lost if the charity which owns Holmhill Multiple Sclerosis Holiday Home in Grantown closes the facility.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland claims it cannot afford to keep the home open.
The charity said it was costing a quarter of its annual funds to run Holmhill, but only 2% of people affected by MS use the home.
The society considered different options for Holmhill, but decided the best course of action was to close it at the end of November.
Paddy Woods, 69, of Edinburgh, has been visiting Holmhill for the past five years.
Mr Woods, who has been affected by Multiple Sclerosis for the past 30 years, said he was delighted with the care he had received at the home, but was devastated at the prospect of it closing down.
He said: "Holmhill is a fantastic place. The staff are very caring and the guests have a magnificent time while they are staying there.
"It also provides a welcome break for the guests' partners; my wife is able to get away on holiday for a couple of weeks when I stay at the home.
"This is important because looking after someone with MS is a 24-hour job and partners also need a chance to recharge their batteries."
Holmhill is one of two centres of its kind run by the charity in Scotland, providing respite care.
The other holiday home is the Richard Cave MS Holiday Home at Leuchie, near North Berwick.
But Mr Woods said the maximum length of stay at Leuchie was only 12 days.
He added: " This is not enough time to have a proper break. I enjoy going to Grantown.
"The High Street is only five minutes away from the home and the guests are spending money while they are there , which is great for the local economy."
In a letter sent out to guests, Mark Hazelwood, the society's director for Scotland, said Holmhill had not been used as well in recent years because of an increase in "alternative holiday provision".
According to Mr Hazelwood, only 136 people stayed at Holmhill last year.
He added: " Having considered these options, the society is now proposing that, subject to consultation with staff, Holmhill should close at the end of November.
"We realise that this news will be very disappointing, particularly to those who have stayed regularly at Holmhill. But we have to support people across the whole of Scotland.
"However, if this proposal does go ahead, it will allow the society to use its resources to benefit more people affected by MS in other ways.
"For example, the society will continue to fund the expansion of specialist MS nurses who can benefit many hundreds of people with MS. The council which made this recommendation was obviously aware of the potential upset it would cause to the guests.
"The council was made up of representatives from our branches all over Scotland - some of whom suffer from MS themselves. The society has to benefit 10,500 people in Scotland with MS, so it has to balance the needs of people who use Holmhill.
"Because we are aware of how difficult this will be for people, the society is offering support and advice to help people identify possible respite services if the decision goes ahead."
Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MSP, Fergus Ewing, said he would lobby the Scottish Health Minister in an effort to save the home.
He said: "It will be a pity if the Holmhill Centre has to close, but it appears from the information supplied by the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland that there are serious matters arising from the funding of Holmhill, as well as occupancy.
"However, its closure will affect 25 people in Grantown who work there, and that is a significant concern, as well as the loss of a resource for MS sufferers who may not be able to access alternatives.
"Nevertheless the MS Society has acted extremely responsibly in ensuring
that we are only at a proposal stage which is subject to formal consultation
with affected staff... I shall be lobbying the Health Minister to see if
he can intercede in any way".
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