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29 August 2006

Health Minister's 'snub' to maternity units slammed - Buchan Observer

LOCAL MSP Stewart Stevenson has hit out after Health Minister Andy Kerr revealed he has no plans to visit threatened maternity units in the North-east ahead of making a crucial decision over their future.

The Minister had been invited to visit the units by the SNP in order to see for himself the services on offer, to meet with campaigners, and to see for himself the journeys which expectant mothers would need to take in order to access services in Aberdeen.

Mr Stevenson has repeatedly called for maternity services to be retained at a local level in the North-east.

Mr Kerr has responded to the invitation by stating he has no plans to visit the units in question, and will make his decision based upon the recommendations of the Health Board and the representations made about them.

Commenting, Banff and Buchan MSP Mr Stevenson said: "I find it truly staggering that the Health Minister thinks that a decision on the future of these maternity units can be made without any need to visit them and witness first hand the damaging effect that these closures would have.

"I would have hoped that the Health Minister would have wanted to see these excellent facilities for himself rather than rely on the recommendations of a Health Board which run contrary to the policy for local delivery of health services which the Scottish Government is trying to implement.

"For Andy Kerr to assume that he can make a decision of such enormity from the comfort of his Edinburgh office, simply by looking at written submissions, is typical of this Scottish Government which consistently fails to listen to the people.

"Community campaigners will feel utterly let down that the Minister sees no reason to visit these units and see for himself just what the closures would mean for expectant mothers in the area. It is now more important than ever that the Health Minister is made aware of the strength of feeling locally."
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