HC Deb 20 March 1934 vol 287 cc1028-9
27. Mr. T. RAMSAY

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the wife of James Maclennan, Isle of Scarp, who was delivered of a baby by an untrained midwife at Scarp on 13th January, was conveyed over the island, the sea, and the uncompleted Hushinish road on a stretcher to a motor car for transport to Tarbert, Harris, 18 miles away, on 14th January; that ultimately she was conveyed by car to Lewis Hospital, Stornoway, where she was delivered of a second baby at nine p.m. on 15th January; and, seeing that the people of Scarp have repeatedly asked for a trained nurse, pier, and road transport facilities, what action he proposes to take in the matter?


I understand that the facts of the case are generally as stated. I am informed that some time before the birth the doctor visited Mrs. Maclennan and strongly urged her to go to Tarbert for her confinement. He again saw her a few days before the birth and repeated this advice. Neither the doctor nor the trained nurse was summoned until after the first child was born. Within two hours of receiving the telephone message asking for assistance they reached the island and under the doctor's personal supervision the patient was removed to the hospital where she was successfully delivered of the second child. As regards the last part of the question, a doctor and nurse are available in Tarbert and the installation of a telephone between Tarbert and Hushinish has reduced the difficulty of summoning them to Scarp to a minimum. The Department of Health are satisfied that these arrangements are adequate. The provision of improved transport facilities is a matter in the first instance for the County Council of Inverness. Any application which that body may make for assistance from State funds for that purpose will be carefully considered by the Departments concerned.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the doctor who gave that information also mentioned that, if a district nurse was given, they would be very lucky indeed compared with other parts of Harris, and is he also aware that many women in the Western Isles view with agonising dread the approaching time of child-birth on account of their isolation, the difficulties of transport and the inadequacy and uncertainty of medical and surgical facilities?


I think if in similar circumstances they would take the advice preferred to Mrs. Maclennan and go to a proper home in time, many of the difficulties incidental to life on a scattered island would be removed.