Campaigners want their local SNP MSP to do more to stop a threatened hospital closure in Caithness.
NHS Highland is reviewing its services at Wick’s Town and County Hospital, Thurso’s Dunbar Hospital and Caithness General Hospital – and many fear the Town and County will close by Christmas.
A major concern is the potential impact on frail and elderly patients and their families if there is a further reduction in beds, given region wide shortages of care at home staff.
A NHS Highland spokesman said extra consultant geriatricians have been employed in Caithness in recent years to enable more working in the community, holding of local clinics in hospitals, supporting of care homes and working with GPs. The health authority has repeatedly stressed that an ageing population with fewer staff requires changing the model of healthcare delivery.
Protests will take place later this month against cutting beds at both the Town and County and Dunbar hospitals.
NHS Highland insists no decisions will be made until after public consultations in November, but campaigners feel their only lever left for change is a political one.
Professor Iain Baikie, co vice chair of Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) said: “The government is currently not taking the needs of peripheral areas into account. If they continue to ignore our basic needs and close our hospitals then I anticipate a loss of trust and a significant backlash.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said…..
Local SNP MSP Gail Ross has previously said she will not accept NHS Highland withdrawing the palliative care service from Caithness – but campaigners view this as “acceptance” of some form of service cut.
Wick St Fergus Church minister, Rev John Nugent, said there is “a lot of anger locally” about the situation and “people don’t feel they are getting the necessary representation.”
He said that Mrs Ross should “step away from the official party line” as “up until now some of her public statements have been word for word of her party leader.”
But Mrs Ross said: “Can I point out to the revered John Nugent that this is not a party political issue, we are working together to try and resolve this. Shouting from the side-lines is not helping the situation whatsoever. I would welcome the chance to work alongside him and Prof Baikie and to listen to any suggestions that they may have to resolve the situation.”
Yesterday, The Press and Journal also revealed that 10,000 outpatient visits were made to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness in the last year by Caithness residents, a round trip of up to 240 miles in some parts.