Frustration is growing in Shetland and Orkney at the length of time it is taking to carry out much-needed refurbishment work to the Islands Accommodation Unit at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
It is two years this month since more than £100,000, most of it raised in Orkney, was handed over to NHS Grampian, but the upgrade has still not begun. Scores of families from the islands and remoter regions of the Grampian Health Board area are entitled to use the unit, located in the hospital, for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are eight bedrooms (four single and four double), a self-service kitchen, dining room, sitting room, two toilets, shower room, ironing room and laundry room.
While clearly valued by families who have to spend time in Aberdeen prior to or after the birth of their babies, in the last few months several mothers and fathers from both island groups have highlighted to The Shetland Times how down-at-heel and in need of modernisation the unit has become. For example, there are no sinks in the toilets.
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said the proposed refurbishment work, which will include redecorating the bedrooms, laying new carpets and installing a new kitchen, has been put out to tender, but a further meeting was required to plan and commission the work.
It is understood that even with the substantial cash sum available, there is a limit to what can be done. Within the last month an AMHIA Shetland Fund has been set up and has already raised more than £2,000 towards the unit through Sunday teas and other events.
More are planned, including a charity night in Posers nightclub on Saturday 7th November, a sale and teas at Whiteness & Weisdale Hall on Sunday 22nd November and a bag-packing day at Tesco on Friday 18th December. An anagram quiz is also in selected shops.
Anyone who wishes to help out or join the committee, currently comprised of chairwoman Marina Manson, secretary Amy Leask, both from Whiteness, and treasurer Sarah-Jane Moore from Lerwick, should contact the group at email@example.com. Donations can be sent to Sarah-Jane at 13 Burgess Street, Lerwick, ZE1 0PP.
Marina, who spent time in the unit while awaiting the birth of twins Reuben and Jessie, said: “The unit is essential for everybody going down to wait for their babies. It is nice if you are away from home to have some home comforts. At the moment there aren’t. Work needs to be done desperately.”
Marina, who also has a two-year-old toddler, Zander, said she and the group of other like-minded mothers had decided it was time Shetland made its contribution.