A CAMPAIGN group is sending 1000 postcards to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in protest at the centralisation of local health services under NHS Highland.
Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) has collected 2400 postcards from the public with the slogan, 100 miles too far, referring to the length of journey patients often have to make to receive basic care.
In 2016, 14,786 patients from Caithness and Sutherland travelled for appointments at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, many only lasting five minutes and which could have been conducted over the phone.
In addition, about 90 per cent of maternity patients now give birth in Inverness. Many mothers are making the journey down the A9 without an ambulance while in labour.
Members of the community have written comments on the postcards, sharing their own health care stories and protesting against any further downgrades to hospital services.
Many people have used the postcards to express their fear the maternity changes could result in tragedy. Others comment on their experiences travelling to Raigmore for basic health procedures. Centralisation is a common theme.
Chat is sending a first batch of 1000 postcards to Ms Sturgeon and is inviting health secretary Shona Robison to travel to Caithness for a meeting and to accept the remaining 1400 in person.
She previously agreed to meet Chat in Edinburgh but has not committed to making the journey to Wick. The campaign group previously issued a petition to Ms Robison carrying more than 6000 signatures.
Chat chairman Bill Fernie said yesterday: “The strength of feeling in the community cannot be overestimated. Between the recent maternity downgrade, the scandalous number of patients making a 200-plus mile round trip for five minute appointments and now the bed review, there’s a real sense that health care is being centralised and Caithness in particular will feel the brunt of NHS Highland’s budget cuts. We hope the Scottish Government will finally decide to intervene in this situation.”
Nicola Sinclair, a Wick and east Caithness Highland councillor and Chat founding member, said: “NHS Highland frequently blame the lack of health services in Caithness on staffing shortages but that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The threat of closure has hovered over our hospitals for decades and recruitment efforts have been piecemeal at best, so it’s little wonder they are now short of staff and running up huge bills for locum cover.
This is a failure in workforce planning and in innovation. Closure and centralisation is not the answer and we’ll continue to campaign for safer local services.”