CHAT column, April 2021

First published in John O’Groat Journal in April 2021

CHAT was formed to campaign for the best possible maternity service in Caithness and our campaign continues as we welcome the refurbishment of the Queen Elizabeth West Wing at Caithness General Hospital to create a new Community Midwifery Unit (CMU).

We also welcome the expansion and development of the emergency and the outpatient departments which will greatly improve facilities and access to care.

As work progresses, Laura Menzies, North & West Lead Midwife, gave me an insight into the resources the new CMU will have.

Situated on the ground floor and self contained with its own main entrance for clinics and day case reviews, the unit will have lots to offer in the improvement of maternity services and facilities. In addition there are entrances for hospital personnel and for ambulance patients. The unit is split into two areas, a clinical area for labour & delivery, and another for day case and outpatient appointments.

Women will now be able to have scans, clinics, midwife appointments and give birth all in the one area.

The new unit will have dedicated scanning equipment to allow women to come to the unit for antenatal appointments without the need to attend x-ray separately before seeing the consultant and midwife.

New IT equipment and enhanced connectivity will allow full WiFi coverage. Data points will allow real time communication with obstetric and paediatric consultants in Raigmore during antenatal clinics, day case appointments, during labour or neonatal resuscitations.

Another welcome addition is an en suite LDPR room (labour, delivery, postnatal & recovery room) This allows women booked for local delivery to be admitted, give birth, recover and be discharged from the same room without the need to move to other rooms in the hospital during their stay. A built in birthing pool has also been accommodated in this room, again negating the necessity of women moving from room to room during their labour.

The unit will now have a quiet room for women and families to conduct sensitive conversations in privacy and comfort with the maternity and obstetric team.

There will be a large room where antenatal education and parentcraft classes, baby massage, baby yoga, breastfeeding workshops and hypnobirthing sessions can all be held once Covid restrictions ease, with a new baby feeding/changing area beside it.

To enhance patient flow and professional communications the unit will have its own receptionist and medical secretary. and there is also a dedicated staff rest area and shower facility.

Numerical keypad entry points at doors and full CCTV coverage give increased security. New lockable windows have been installed. The unit will have fully piped medical gases eliminating the need for midwives to work with heavy gas cylinders. A new nurse call system will also be installed.

Tracey-Ann McGeachin, Caithness midwifery team lead informed me “the team are very excited to continue providing the highest level of care in what will be a truly modern unit designed around the needs of our community and best supplement and support a midwifery led approach to maternity care going forwards”

The new CMU will also be home to student midwives during their training, perhaps leading to some of them relocating to Caithness after they qualify.

The unit is due to be completed in May and will enhance the experiences of mothers to be in the North.

Ron Gunn
Vice Chair

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