Health campaigners hope new maternity unit will allow more births in Caithness
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our brand new digital subscription packages!
Local health campaigners say they hope Caithness General Hospital's new midwifery facility will allow more births in the county and reduce the number of women having to travel to Inverness.
NHS Highland announced on Thursday that Wick-based GMR Henderson had been awarded the construction contract to refurbish the hospital's Queen Elizabeth West Wing to create a community midwifery unit (CMU).
It is part of an £800,000 package of improvements including expansion and development of the emergency and outpatient departments.
Ron Gunn, a vice-chairman of Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT), welcomed the investment but said the group would continue to campaign for "an Orkney-style maternity unit" at the Wick hospital.
NHS Orkney's Balfour maternity unit in Kirkwall is run by midwives who are supported by consultant obstetricians.
Mr Gunn said: "We welcome the announcement that the refurbishment of Caithness General Hospital is about to start and that the contract was won by local firm GMR Henderson.
"The badly needed improvements to the emergency and outpatient departments will be of great benefit to both the staff and the patients. The redeployment of the current CMU to a new purpose-built facility that will support the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies in the local area is also very welcome.
"Hopefully this will allow more births in Caithness and reduce the number having to travel to Inverness.
"The changes will not stop us campaigning for an Orkney-style maternity unit for Caithness General Hospital."
The new midwifery unit will have its own entrance and will include a birthing unit, outpatient clinic rooms and scanning room, providing a one-stop shop for women and their babies for antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care.
The project has been designed and managed by the NHS Highland Estates team, with input from consultants CDMM and Thomson Gray. Construction is due to start on site within the next fortnight.
NHS Highland’s head of estates, Eric Green, said: “We are delighted to award this important contract to a Caithness firm, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy during these difficult times. We are working closely with GMR Henderson to achieve a completion date of March 2021.”
Announcing the investment plans last May, NHS Highland chairman Professor Boyd Robertson called it "great news for Caithness General Hospital and the people of Caithness".