A north-east politician has vigorously defended the SNP’s record on health in the face of scathing complaints about reforms, which have been widely perceived as “downgrading” maternity services in Caithness.
Increasing dependence on 100-mile patient transfers from the Caithness General Hospital in Wick to Raigmore in Inverness, has sparked public anger and been the catalyst for demonstrations.
The issues dominated local debate before the council elections, which saw protest campaigner, Nicola Sinclair of the Caithness Health Action Team, elected.
The issues could dominate in the run-up to the Westminster election.
The SNP chose two candidates for many Highland seats, but only one in each of the two Caithness council wards. Both secured a seat, but in third and fourth spot out of four successful candidates.
Paul Monaghan, who has served as an MP for the last two years, said: “Changes taking place at Caithness General and other local hospitals are designed to modernise our services. There’s more money going into Caithness General today, by a significant margin of £2million, than there was in 2015.
“I am committed to making sure every person in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross has excellent health services and access to the specialist attention they need when they need it.”
He congratulated new SNP Caithness councillors, Karl Rosie and Raymond Bremner, claiming it showed the community “understands the SNP are protecting our NHS.”
He also offered congratulations to councillor Sinclair.
Speaking yesterday, Chat chairman Bill Fernie, who lost his council seat on Friday, revealed an imminent postcard petition, targeting 10,000 homes, would demonstrate the continued level of anger over local NHS services.
He added: “We realise this is a devolved issue, but we want to put all Westminster candidates on record as to whether they support our community demands – such as not sending all women to Raigmore to have their babies.”
He confirmed that proposals for putting forward the group’s own candidate for Westminster have been dropped.
But he said: “We’ll instead write to all the candidates asking for their views on health and how, if elected, they would support the community on this vital matter.”