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Councillors demand review of maternity shake-up plans

Caithness General Hospital in Wick
Caithness General Hospital in Wick

Councillors want an “independent review” of NHS Highland’s controversial shake-up of Caithness General Hospital’s maternity services amid huge local opposition to the health board’s plans.

More than 60 protesters today (TUES) lobbied councillors arriving for an area committee meeting a short distance from the hospital.

They took the issue as a special item at the start of the meeting.

Watched by a delegation of campaigners, they soon afterwards unanimously agreed to press for a fresh look at the health board’s plans and will seek the backing of the full council.

The maternity service shake-up is poised to go ahead despite a series of blunders involving young mothers.

An NHS Highland report published last week recommended a downgrade from a consultant-led service to a “midwife-led community maternity unit.”

It also called for Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to be “strengthened” to provide round-the-clock obstetric, neonatal and senior midwifery support.

The review followed the death of a baby from the e.coli sepsis infection just 40 hours after she was born at the hospital last year.

A few hours after the committee debate, local SNP councillor and MSP Gail Ross, who was strongly criticised by colleagues for her apparent support of the proposals, quit her council role.

She was elected Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP last May and had previously intended to relinquish her council role at next May’s elections.

She said: “After careful consideration of the decision made by the Caithness area committee this morning, I feel that my role as councillor is unsustainable.

“I have read in detail the report of the maternity services review and considered its findings carefully. I have conducted my own research into the matter and asked the opinions of my constituents.

“I have worked extremely hard to both understand the current situation and help the team to find a future for the maternity unit which would be safe, sustainable and effective.”

Ms Ross’s decision will not trigger a ward by-election because she did not stand down within a six-month period before the next council elections.

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