Patients in the far north have been promised a major hospital upgrade within two years – if the Scottish Government guarantees the necessary £5million.
NHS Highland is considering a wide range of options as part of its vision for improving the 74-bed Caithness General in Wick. It is optimistic that the upgrade will begin next year.
Project leader Pam Garbe said: “The hospital has served the community well since it was opened in 1985. Changes in demand and in the way we deliver healthcare are such that we have to look at how the hospital is configured and how we can adapt it so that it can better meet 21st century needs.
“It’s become clear that the present model and lay-out compromise care and patient flow and that we need a major revision of the way the hospital functions.”
She said significant steps had been taken in the past year to improve things including increasing bed spacing, increasing the percentage of single rooms and extending the accident and emergency department.
Ms Garbe dismissed recent suggestions that the health board intended to downgrade or close Caithness General.
“I hope our far-reaching proposals to redesign and upgrade the hospital show that nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.
Details of the proposed redevelopment have yet to be determined, but NHS Highland wants to make significant changes including the relocation of the 24-bed Bignold surgical ward to the hospital’s top floor.
It also intends to relocate the Henderson maternity facility to a temporary site between the exiting unit and the operating theatre.
“With an ageing population, recruitment and retention challenges and changes in medicine, technology and social care, we cannot stand still,” Ms Garbe added.
An outline of proposed changes was presented by health chiefs at a meeting in Thurso earlier this month.