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Patients may have 220-mile round trip to Highland capital to get ears syringed, says angry community councillor

By Gordon Calder

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A Caithness patient may have to travel a total of 220 miles to get her ears syringed in Inverness, a Thurso community councillor has claimed.

Billy Sinclair highlighted the case at the most recent meeting of the organisation and wondered why the person could not have the treatment in the county.

He said: "Nurses are trained for five years and doctors for seven so why someone can't get their ears syringed up here is beyond me. If you can get it done at a local opticians why can't you get it done by a nurse or a doctor in Caithness."

Mr Sinclair also queried why patients in the north, who have to travel south to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for appointments, often have to be there early in the morning.

Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

"People from Caithness are getting appointments for 7.30am. Why can't somebody work out that people from here would be better getting their appointments in the afternoon," he asked.

Community councillor, Louise Smith, told the meeting she had to go to the Highland capital for two appointments and asked if they could be organised for the same day, rather than going south on two different dates.

"For the first time ever, they managed to do it so it is possible," she said.

Mr Sinclair claimed the far north had a better health service when it was run by the former Caithness and Sutherland Health Trust.

It built five health centres in the two counties and provided a number of services here so patients did not have to travel south so much, he said. "Now, it is the other way round," added Mr Sinclair.

Community councillor, Colin Johnston, asked: "How many consultants come here. We can't get them. That's the problem," he said.

Treasurer, Elspeth Husband, noted that the public is often told about its carbon footprint and said: "One way to reduce your carbon footprint would be not having to go to Inverness for appointments."

Earlier, the community council heard further enquiries are to be made about the fixed-term contracts being offered for health posts in Caithness.

Iain Gregory said he had contacted health campaigners, CHAT, initially and plans to ask NHS Highland for figures for the past year.

He would like to know how many contracts are fixed-term and how many are permanent and also what the reason is for offering the former.

It was felt fixed-term contracts could act as a disincentive for local people and applicants from the south if the positions were for periods between six and 12 months.

"Why would you come here for such a short-term contract," wondered chairwoman, Thelma Mackenzie.

Mr Gregory said once the full data is available he will take the matter up with the Scottish Health Secretary, Michael Matheson.

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