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Castletown community council 'disappointed' by postponement of £80 million Caithness healthcare plan


By Gordon Calder

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THE decision to put multi-million pound healthcare projects in Caithness on hold has "disappointed" Castletown community councillors.

Chairman, Billy Dunbar, expressed his concern at the most recent meeting after learning that the £80 million redesign project which included community hub and care villages in Wick and Thurso – costing £55 million – and a reconfiguration of Caithness General Hospital is being postponed.

The £80 million redesign scheme included reconfiguration work at Caithness General Hospital in Wick
The £80 million redesign scheme included reconfiguration work at Caithness General Hospital in Wick

Scottish health boards have been told to pause any new capital projects and concentrate on essential maintenance after the Scottish Government described its capital funding position as "extremely challenging".

Mr Dunbar was "disappointed" by the news while community council secretary, Liz Geddes, said: "It is not very good at all."

Other members shared their concerns and hoped the projects would continue at a later date and not be scrapped completely.

Last June, it was announced that a design team had been appointed for the hubs in Wick and Thurso. The two sites are near Noss Primary School in Wick and at the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso.

One of the two Caithness health hubs is expected to be sited at the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso
One of the two Caithness health hubs is expected to be sited at the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso

Other projects in the Highlands which will be affected by the decision include a £9 million plan to increase capacity at Raigmore Hospital's maternity unit in Inverness and a replacement of Fort William's Belford Hospital.

NHS Highland acknowledged that the news would be "difficult to hear".

As reported last week, Caithness campaigner, Ron Gunn, spoke of his anger and disappointment over the "bombshell" news and questioned whether the redesign project will ever go ahead, given the constraints on Scottish Government funding.

Mr Gunn, who is a Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor and chairman of the Caithness Health Action Team, said:"To be honest, I don't know if I will ever see the hubs because if the Scottish Government doesn't have the money now, where are they going to get it two or three years down the road?"

As chairman of Highland Council's Caithness committee, he and his Sutherland counterpart, Richard Gale, wrote an open letter calling on the SNP's Maree Todd to consider her position as MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

They claimed she should either "step up to the mark or resign."

Ms Todd responded by saying: "I will always speak up for my constituents and the communities I represent."


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