The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said her mother has dementia and has been in the hospital since the end of last year.
“I am concerned they [NHS Highland] are trying to close the hospital by stealth. When patients leave they are not being replaced and beds are being closed,” the woman said.
“In March, there was quite a buzz about the place. Five or six people were there waiting to get a bed in a home and about three others had dementia. But it is getting more and more empty and I feel it is being closed down.
“Caithness General is becoming a holding area for people who are waiting for a bed in a home.”
The woman described the Town and County as “a wonderful facility”, adding: “The patients get first-class care so it is a shame to think that it is being denied to people who could be using it. The staff are so caring and there is such a good atmosphere there.”
The woman suggested that campaigners had taken their “eye off the ball” regarding the Town and County as they were concerned about the maternity unit at Caithness General Hospital.
She is concerned NHS Highland could then say nobody is using the facility and it is no longer viable.
“What would the alternative be for old people? They would probably end up blocking beds at Caithness General. I think we need another march to highlight what is going on,” she said, referring to the protests in Thurso and Wick last October to campaign to keep the services at Dunbar Hospital, Thurso, and the Town and County. More than 2000 people were involved.
The woman also pointed out that at a time when beds are needed locally plans are being made to close the Achvarasdal care home near Reay. It is run by CrossReach on behalf of the Church of Scotland and has 10 residents and around 30 full-time and part-time staff. The home is due to close at the end of the month.
Pam Garbe, the Caithness General HospitalTown and County Hospital manager, said: “We will be liaising and supporting staff through the process as the options on the future provision of healthcare services in Caithness progress.
“There were no concerns raised from staff or patients during my visit last week. Meanwhile, there are currently no patients on the waiting list for the Town and County and there haven’t been for a significant period of time.”
As reported in Friday’s John O’Groat Journal, NHS Highland is looking at the possibility of developing a care village or hub at Pulteney House and a care hub at the Town and County or Caithness General. They would be among the options being looked as part of the redesign of health services in the area.