More than 100 people have packed a public meeting in Moray in a show of opposition of the downgrade of the region’s only maternity unit.
Last night, residents bombarded NHS Grampian’s top management team at Elgin Town Hall with concerns about transporting pregnant women to give birth in Aberdeen or Inverness.
Senior management repeatedly apologised for the stress and anxiety caused by the temporary move at Dr Gray’s – but emphasised it was the safest decision during the staffing crisis.
Richard Strachan, an accident and emergency department doctor at Dr Gray’s who attended the meeting as a member of the public, told his bosses he “assumed” he would be getting extra training to cope with the possible increase of pregnancy cases walking through his door while he was on shift- and the medic criticised the groundwork done to ensure safe transfers out of Elgin.
He said: “There aren’t enough ambulances for this plan. I’m sorry, but there aren’t.”
Mr Strachan also accused his employers of not doing enough to provide accommodation for junior doctors considering moving to Moray to boost recruitment efforts.
Tragic stories were told of women being transported to Aberdeen in the 1980s to give birth who had their children die while waiting to be seen after arrival or who had journeys aborted due to complications.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that an ambulance that was transporting a woman from Elgin to Inverness to give birth on Tuesday ran out of pain relief at Nairn.
Management accepted it was impossible to guarantee that the experiences of parents-to-be would not be affected during the downgrade.
Caroline Hiscox, NHS Grampian’s director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions, said: “I’m not going to sit here and say that experiences won’t be affected or the current model is absolutely optimal because no health care system can achieve that.”
Amy Fraser, a member of the Keep Mum campaign group, challenged the NHS to accept that their preparations to avoid a downgrade had been an “abject failure”.
Acting chief executive Amanda Croft did not accept the description – explaining staff had worked “tirelessly” to keep Dr Gray’s unit fully operational while applying “sticking plaster” measures over the last five years.
During the talks it was revealed that 10 babies had been born in Aberdeen that would ordinarily have been delivered in Elgin since the downgrade, which came into effect on Wednesday last week.
Dr Jamie Hogg, clinical director at Dr Gray’s, explained work would continue to make Elgin an attractive place for graduates to complete their training.