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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Protest over maternity unit cuts
Caithness General Hospital
The maternity service is to be midwife-led
Campaigners fighting to save maternity services at a hospital have taken their case to the Scottish Parliament.

Caithness General in Wick is to be changed from a consultant-led maternity service to one led by midwives.

Opponents claim the lives of mothers and babies will be threatened if they have to travel more than 100 miles to Inverness in case of an emergency.

Members of the North Action Group gave out leaflets at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

They are campaigning for more funding to help keep the consultant-led unit and raise the profile of their cause.

The proposal for a maternity unit run by midwives was accepted by NHS Highland health board this year, following a controversial report by Professor Andrew Calder.

Any mother who has a problem with her pregnancy will have to go to Inverness, and that could include around 50% of women, as those who are having their first child will often have slight problems
Bill Fernie
campaigner

Professor Calder said sustaining the consultant service proved difficult in the face of problems recruiting trained professionals.

NHS Highland health board will shortly hold an emergency meeting, after which the proposal to downgrade maternity services will go out to public consultation.

Wick councillor and North Action Group member Bill Fernie, who was one of the campaigners in the capital, said: "The health board has a running deficit and so we have to go to the politicians in Edinburgh.

"The health board might say that Raigmore Hospital in Inverness is a centre of excellence, but it is going to take health services away from local areas.

"Any mother who has a problem with her pregnancy will have to go to Inverness, and that could include around 50% of women, as those who are having their first child will often have slight problems.

"If (Health Minister) Malcolm Chisholm and the health department were to provide more funds then perhaps the NHS Highland health board would change their minds."


SEE ALSO:
Staff crisis hits maternity unit
15 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Marchers condemn maternity plans
21 Mar 04  |  Scotland
NHS board backs maternity cuts
16 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Report queries rural baby units
10 Mar 04  |  Scotland


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