John Mason said "part of me believes we should just close down hospitals" but accepted "there is some resistance to that" and "my feeling amongst the public is that they want hospitals".
During a meeting of the finance committee in the Scottish parliament, Mason quizzed a representative from innovation charity Nesta who had suggested money could be saved and care improved by increasing care in the community rather than relying on hospitals.
"Part of me believes that we should just close down hospitals and put the resources into the community but there is some resistance to that," replied Mason.
"Your suggestion of an elderly person turning up, going to A&E having had a turn or whatever and being turned away, I mean part of me is attracted to that but part of me says what if they had a stroke or what if they have a urinary infection – surely social services couldn't cope with that."
Mason was told that, in that circumstance, a care worker would identify someone had had a stroke and admit them to hospital and added that more should be done to improve public awareness that hospital care isn't always the best option due to risk of infection or dehydration.
"So it's a lack of information or understanding perhaps on the part of the public?" asked Mason. "I was interested in one of the pages of your report ... which said 'by giving people in communities more power over their decisions we could move public services to co-production enhancing their ability to be preventative'.
"But my feeling amongst the public is they want A&E, they want hospitals," said Mason. "So is it just that the public don't understand?"
At the end of the committee meeting, fellow SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: "Shutting down hospitals is not Scottish National Party policy."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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