Nelson’s Column

My wife and I have just returned from a month in Glasgow accompanied by our beautiful new wee baby, initiating the poor little thing into Shetland life with the full blown Northlink experience at the tender age of two weeks. Well it’s important to get them immune to horrific things while they are young.

We chose to go all the way down there as my wife’s due date was at the beginning of January – right in the middle of the ferry cancelling season – and with us living on Unst we were advised to bide in at the Gilbert Bain in Lerwick throughout the Christmas and New Year period. No disrespect to Lerwegians but we thought that a clinical hospital annex wouldn’t be the cosiest place to relax with the mulled wine and advocat. And the thought of going “old school” and having the howdie deliver the babe in a galvanised bath round the back of a cow shed in Baltasound didn’t appeal. So we decided that, if we were having to leave Unst, we may as well go Sooth and be with family, do some work and check in to the same hospital my wife was born in.

The Paisley Royal Alexandria Hospital, despite being the swine flu capital of Scotland, has the most beautiful midwifery suite you could imagine. The Community Maternity Unit looks almost like the Northern Lights Spa in Bressay and has everything from an acupuncturist to an aromatherapist (and a labour unit downstairs full of drugs and medical equipment just in case you want to go that way once you get there.) The midwives are all very on the ball and matter of fact as well as being encouraging and supportive. It’s just as well, as I have no idea whether or not I was encouraging and supportive at all during the vital moments. My comments of “Wow, it’s like a sci-fi movie,” when the baby arrived may not have gone down well. Who knows what new mum was thinking as she lay there exhausted listening to the midwife and I dissecting and discussing the afterbirth. Fascinating, by the way.

It was great for my in-laws to be able to greet their first grandchild on arrival before we headed back up north. My mother-in-law had already drained all of the charity shops in Renfrewshire of their bibs, babygrows and blankets. My parents already have several grandchildren but it didn’t stop my dad proudly holding this new one up to the neighbours like he was just about to auction the poor wee thing off.

I myself was born at Yorkhill Hospital, a Victorian brick behemoth in Springburn, which was recently saved from closure after a huge campaign by professionals and public alike. Unfortunately the same fate did not befall The Queen Mother Maternity Hospital in Glasgow, which was closed just a few days after our own special day.

Nearly everyone I know was born in the Queen Mother. It had the unique position of being attached to Yorkhill Sick Childrens Hospital by a linking corridor which became affectionately known as The Umbilical Cord. It meant that if a child was born with any kind of complication or special circumstance there were world class paediatricians on hand to take care of the situation immediately. A brand new state of the art maternity unit is has been built at The Glasgow Southern General, which in itself isn’t a bad thing. However it is three miles away from Yorkhill, on the other side of the river Clyde, accessed by the very busy Clyde tunnel.

Eventually Yorkhill will be closed and a new Children’s Hospital will be built at the Southern General . . . in 2015. So for the next five years, new born babies with problems will have to be put in an ambulance and driven to Yorkhill. Let’s hope the poor wee babies who are unfortunate enough to arrive with a complication are courteous enough to avoid being born at rush hour – there is nowhere for an ambulance to overtake in the Clyde tunnel during the 5pm gridlock. Ambulance staff will have to be retrained in the proper handling of incubators. Mothers who are not in a condition to leave the Southern General will only be able to see their sick child at Yorkhill via webcam link up. What a mess! What a complete mess.

Glasgow Council, Holyrood and Westminster have successfully dismantled one of the most beautiful medical arrangements in the world. If just one child is affected or, worse still, lost through this farcical temporary arrangement it will be on the heads of those who made this unfathomable decision.

Yorkhill, by the way, sits on a piece of prime real estate in the west end of Glasgow right next to the massive Glasgow Harbour luxury housing and leisure development. Coincidence?

Thank God we live in Shetland, with its clean, tidy, incorruptible council. It is, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?

Sandy Nelson


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