Bed push relay to fight against hospital downgrading
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PEOPLE are being invited to demonstrate their opposition to downgrading health services in the far north by joining in a bed push protest from Thurso to Wick.
Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) wants at least 100 people to take part in a mile long section of the relay between Dunbar Hospital to Caithness General Hospital to mark public concern about feared cuts in maternity cover and other NHS services in the area.
The protest comes in the wake of NHS Highland last month cutting the number of beds at the maternity unit at Caithness General from six to three, with more expectant mothers being referred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
The health authority defends its action due to a lack of demand, maintaining no more than three are required at the top floor Henderson wing.
But CHAT members are furious that the move went ahead without any consultation and are fearful more health services will be lost or downgraded.
CHAT vice chairwoman Kirsteen Campbell said there is real concern in Caithness more health services will become centralised, leaving those requiring care and treatment having to travel more than 100 miles to Inverness.
She said the protest is designed to highlight the disquiet among people in the community about the future of their health services.
She said: “Downgrading is happening faster and faster.
“There has been no public consultation about the maternity unit going down to three beds.
“Winter is coming which will bring stormy weather and put tremendous pressure on the ambulance service transporting patients south, leaving us with no cover.
“We hope that the community will back the protest with Caithness uniting and all wanting the same thing by having our health services retained.”
The protest will take place on Sunday, October 23 outside Dunbar Hospital where members of CHAT will push the bed for the first mile.
The bed will then be pushed towards Wick through Castletown, Bowermadden and Reiss with relay teams changing every mile.
Once the protest reaches the final leg at Wick, CHAT hopes to have as many people as possible take part in the last mile to the Wick hospital.
Since the planned protest was organised on social media on Sunday, Mrs Campbell said their plans have been viewed by almost 6000 people. A number of volunteers have already signed up to take part but she said they need a lot of more to get over their message.
She said: “A number of years ago there was a protest against maternity services closing at the hospital where lots of people took part.
“We want at least the same level of people and even more to take part in our protest to stop our maternity services being downgraded.
“Ideally we want groups of four to six people pushing the bed for each mile. “We really want to make the voice of the community heard for people to make banners "and even come in fancy dress.
“But the most important thing is that people take part.”
NHS Highland insists it does not recognise the cuts in services CHAT refers to.
It said CGH is receiving a multi-million pound upgrade and key appointments have been made in the hospital recently.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of the bed march which reflect ongoing concerns, some of which we understand, but in general we don’t recognise the cuts in services they are referring to.
“It is the case that we had to put in interim measures on the grounds of safety for maternity services.
"These will remain in place until we know the outcome of our local reviews. We hope to be in position to report on the findings later this year, and our priority will be around safety.”
The group is looking for at least 20 teams to take part in the protest with the bed push expected to last six hours.