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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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Eye On Maternity Services    

North Action Group Meet Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm In Inverness 28 February 04
Members of the North Action Group travelled to Inverness by train on Saturday 28 February after requesting a meeting with health minister Malcolm Chisholm.  The group consisting of chairman George Bruce and members Highland councillor Bill Fernie, Martin Duffy and two mothers Kerry Mackenzie and Aelex Bain met with Mr Chisholm at the Palace Hotel, Inverness.  Arriving earlier than expected for the ten minute meeting he stayed talking to the group for 45 minutes and listened to the members outline the fears of people in the north for the safety of mothers and babies in the maternity side of the hospital but also emphasised the growing fears of many about what would happen to gynaecology patients who also required the services of consultants.

North Action Group Members Meeting Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm and MSP Maureen MacMillan
Group members were - Martin Duffy, Aelex Bain, Kerry Mackenzie, George Bruce and Bill Fernie

The group outlined the main reasons heard at many local meetings about why consultant led services should be retained.  Whilst not committing to anything the minister showed some sympathy for the arguments whilst pointing out the great difficulties relating to recruitment and retention of doctors.  Mr Chisholm was given cuttings and information from local papers printed recently.  Throughout the meeting Mr Chisholm made notes particularly concerning points raised by the two mothers as they related details of their own circumstances surrounding the deliveries of their own children and the almost certain deaths that might have resulted for them and other mothers they knew who had been saved by a consultant at Caithness General.  He was left in no doubt about the possible tragic outcomes that might occur without the necessary expertise being available in the far north of Scotland.

North Action Group with their big campaign poster after the meeting with the Health Minister
Martin Duffy, Frank Ward, Kerry Mackenzie, Aelex Bain, George Bruce

George Bruce also related another possibility that is beginning to be realised by a few folk in Caithness regarding the possibility that the service might collapse altogether as there was no guarantee that midwives currently working with consultants in the maternity unit would stay in post if consultants were no longer in post.  some might decide to move to other hospitals to work in the conditions they were used as part of a consultant led team rather than accepting a much greater responsibility for the lives of women and babies in their care.  The assumption that the existing midwives would just step into the gap left by the removal of consultants might be premature.

The group were joined by MSP Maureen Macmillan and and councillor Roger Saxon who listened to the discussion between the North Action Group and Mr Chisholm.  Frank Ward another member of the North Action group also arrived during the discussions and added his own point to the minister.

There was much media interest in the North Action Group talking to Malcolm Chisholm with members of the group being interviewed individually by BBC Radio Scotland, Moray Firth Radio and several reporters and photographers including the Sunday Post, Press and Journal, News Of The World.  Reports are expected to appear in newspapers on Sunday and Monday along with broadcasts over the next couple of days.