FEARS still remain over the future of local NHS services despite a new workshop designed to look at options on improving healthcare in the region.
Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) chairman Bill Fernie said that while there were a lot of good proposals to be looked at in tomorrow’s workshop, which takes place in Wick, there were still a number of concerns that needed addressed.
The futures of the Town and County and Dunbar hospitals, in Wick and Thurso respectively, still need clarification, he said, with many who use and work at those hospitals fearing closures and services being transferred en masse to Caithness General.
He said: “There are a lot of good things to be discussed but there is the wider issue of what patients and the local community want. There are fears we could lose the Town and County Hospital in Wick and services from the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso could also be transferred to Caithness General.
“The Town and County has provided quality care over the years. People have been happy with that and are worried about its future. We fear more centralisation of services to Caithness General, which means jobs would be at stake.
“A number of beds have been reduced at the Dunbar, and if beds are being reduced then how will that affect the positions of the nurses already employed there? There have already been staff cuts. For example, we used to have three obstetricians and now there are two.
“Plus we are still concerned about the amount of pregnant women in Caithness who are having to be transferred to Raigmore to give birth instead of being able to do so in a hospital closer to where they live.”
The aim of the latest workshop is to build on work made at two previous ones as part of NHS Highland’s options development and appraisal process. At it there will be a look at a long list of future options before moving to agree and score a short-list of options.
Michelle Johnstone, NHS Highland’s area manager north, said the two previous workshops had been very informative. She said: “I am very pleased at the level of agreement reached about the challenges we face and the criteria we will use to design future models of services.
“As one would expect, participants weighted some criteria more important than others.
“What is emerging, however, is that safe sustainable services, delivered locally, combined with positive patient and staff experiences in appropriately staffed and modernising facilities will go a long way to better meet future needs in east and west Caithness.”
The board has emphasised that no decisions are being made at this stage in the process, but outcomes will help to form recommendations for future consideration by the board before wider engagement and consultation with the community.