Campaign Pressure Rises Steadily
6th October 2000
No one in Caithness can be unaware of the mounting pressure being built up by the MUMS campaign in Caithness. Local opinion is being gauged by petition in every part of the county now. Every group where mothers meet is discussing the topic and every person in Caithness is being made aware of the threat not just to the maternity service itself but the possible knock on effects of other hospital based services. People are beginning to realise that several services provided in the hospital might be no longer considered viable and so like dominoes they would fall one after another - maternity first, then possibly anaesthetics and who can guess next as one tier knocks on to a reduction in the next and so to it also coming under threat in turn.
The campaign team are speaking to politicians in all parties and at all levels. Letter writing is going on and no post bag is going to be empty for long on this topic until it is resolved. The Health Board decision to delay the review which was to have started shortly is seen as a delaying tactic by many people in the hope that the campaign may die out. This is unlikely as several politicians of several parties are now swinging in behind the campaign. This is too close to people to be left to chance and everyone in Caithness is likely to support this highly local issue for any number of reasons.
Perhaps the minister should consider whether months of campaigning is really necessary if assurances could be given not to down grade the service but put all the energy which will be required to take on the whole Caithness population into finding a solution to ensure that clinical standards and training of medical staff can be kept up to acceptable levels. No one doubts that the low birth rate now evident in the north is a problem for the staff in maintaining their skills. This is in part to other outside economic forces as unemployment and education takes young people away from the area.
Caithnessians are having babies but they are having them in every other part of the country or indeed the world as they leave to get work. Just look at the reunion pages on this web site. We already know of young Caithness families in Australia and elsewhere with up to four children. The primary schools in Caithness certainly wish they were here. But that problem cannot be solved quickly despite years of trying by the authorities.
The fact is that if the services are down graded they will probably never be reinstated and Caithness will become even less attractive to people thinking about bring their young families to the county when mothers would be faced with over 240 miles round trip to see consultants or feel insecure in the knowledge that expertise was only available at the end of a phone.
[This article has been transferred here from our archives]