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Funding boost for Caithness General Hospital A&E department and birthing unit

By Alan Hendry

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Professor Boyd Robertson hailed it as 'great news for Caithness General Hospital and the people of Caithness'.
Professor Boyd Robertson hailed it as 'great news for Caithness General Hospital and the people of Caithness'.

Construction work is to start soon on an extended accident and emergency department and a redesigned, "state-of-the-art" maternity unit at Caithness General Hospital.

The imminent improvements were announced today after NHS Highland received £800,000 in new capital funding from the Scottish Government.

The health board says it represents the first stages of an agreed development plan for the Wick hospital site. The work is scheduled to begin shortly and is to be completed within this financial year.

NHS Highland says it will provide a stand-alone, purpose-built community midwifery unit and develop the current facilities at the A&E department.

The health board chairman, Professor Boyd Robertson, said: “This is great news for Caithness General Hospital and the people of Caithness.

“The accident and emergency department has required more space for a number of years and the establishment of a state-of-the-art birthing unit will support the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies in their local area.

"This is a very welcome first step in delivering the wider development plan for the site.”

Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This funding will help take forward the next phase of Caithness General Hospital’s development.

“Even as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government remains committed to building the capacity and capability of Scotland’s NHS, and improving access to care.

“Caithness’s new maternity unit and extended A&E will be a great asset for the local community and I look forward to seeing construction works progress over the next year.”

NHS Highland’s rural general hospital manager Pam Garbe said: “I am delighted Caithness General Hospital has received this funding which will start the redesign of acute services.

"The funding will improve services and facilities for the people of Caithness and north Sutherland to meet new pressures and changing demands in health care.

“This is a boost for staff who work incredibly hard to deliver a high standard of care. The redesign will start shortly with the development of a new outpatient clinic department which will include bespoke ophthalmology clinic rooms before progressing with the extension of A&E and the community midwifery unit.”

Full plans will be made available in the main area of the hospital for patients, relatives and members of the public to view.

Gail Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said she was "absolutely delighted" with the Scottish Government investment in Caithness General.

“This announcement is testament to the dedication and hard work that has gone in from across the community and the medical profession into the redesign process and is a real step forward in improving the service and delivery of NHS services in Caithness,” she said.

Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) hopes the redesign will allow more births to take place in the county.

Ron Gunn, a vice-chairman of Chat, said: "We are delighted to hear that NHS Highland has received this funding and that work is to start soon. This will be of great benefit to the staff of the hospital and the people of Caithness.

"I will be very interested to hear more detail of what is involved in the establishment of the state-of-the-art birthing unit to support the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies in the local area.

"Hopefully this will allow more births in Caithness and reduce the number having to travel to Inverness.

"The news in this very difficult financial period is welcome."

Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, also welcomed the announcement.

“Many of us have long campaigned for better health services in the Highlands. I am glad they have listened to us and taken this step forward, one I am sure will make a big difference to our community," he said.

“The fight against centralising our public services is not over, though, and I will continue to campaign for equal access to health care – access that isn’t determined by a postcode lottery.”

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