NHS Highland is to review the case of a mother who gave birth to premature twin boys in two different hospitals 52 miles apart.
The health board will examine how the case of the 30-week pregnant woman was handled after it was raised at Holyrood by Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant.
Health campaigners yesterday described the unnamed woman’s ordeal as “horrendous” and claimed it raised more questions about the provision of maternity services in the far north.
The woman attended Caithness General Hospital, Wick, after her waters broke in November last year. It was decided she should go on a 100-mile ambulance journey to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, to have her babies delivered.
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Half way through the journey her contractions became stronger and the ambulance stopped at Golspie Hospital, where she gave birth to her first little boy. An air ambulance was scrambled but the helicopter was unable to land because of frost on the propellers.
A convoy of ambulances then set off for Raigmore. At Inverness the second twin was induced. Mother and twins remained in hospital for six weeks until they went home.
A NHS Highland spokesman said safety of mother and children was the first priority of the health board
In this particular case the spokesman said “standard assessment, triage and transfer protocols” were followed.
The spokesman added: “For reasons of patient confidentiality, NHS Highland would not wish to comment publicly upon the case in question but as in all such cases we will be conducting an internal review to consider the specific circumstances of this case.”
Meanwhile Ron Gunn of the Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT), which is campaigning for better maternity services, described the case as “horrendous”.
“Valid questions need answered,” Mr Gunn said. “The whole thing would have been avoided if they had airlifted her down to Inverness or they had brought up a team to deal with it in Wick.
“Hopefully lessons can be learned from it. We will probably never get back to where we were but the system we have at the moment is not really safe.”
Concerns about maternity cover in the far north have expressed ever since consultants were withdrawn from Caithness General Hospital two years ago.
NHS Highland said each case was “carefully considered” including the use of helicopters and ambulances.
“Whenever these contingency plans have been implemented, there has been a good outcome for mothers and babies,” the NHS Highland spokesman said.
He added: “Predicting how labour will progress is a matter of clinical judgement and it is not always easy to predict. NHS Highland does everything it can to make sure that the best possible clinical advice is obtained before deciding on how best to proceed.”