Caithness Courier headlines for April 9, 2014

THE cost of providing locum cover in Caithness and Sutherland soared to 600,00 in 2013/14 – an increase of more than 300% compared to the previous year. The huge rise – up from 187,000 in 2012/13 – was revealed by Bob Silverwood, NHS Highland’s area manager, when he was highlighting the difficulties in recruiting staff in the far north. Mr Silverwood said Caithness General Hospital is short of two of its three consultant surgeons. “That has happened due to retirement and career development. We have been managing by using short-term locums” he added.

WICK airport could be in line to benefit from new regulations which may force oil firms to look outside Aberdeen for locations to fly their staff to offshore platforms. In two months time, under new Civil Aviation Authority rules, helicopters will be banned from taking off in severe weather with the body also calling for a limit on the number of offshore workers boarding North Sea flights. The changes are to cost the industry millions of pounds and will lead to additional flights with a need for extra aircraft to be brought into service by North Sea helicopter firms.

THE owner of a general store in Halkirk, destroyed by fire, fears it could be months before he is able to reopen. But Hugh John Mackay hopes to secure a deal to relocate the shop to a temporary home in the village within the next few weeks while repairs are being carried out.

THE county’s celebration of the Commonwealth Games this summer is to be a real family affair for one Reay household, as a mother and three daughters have all be chosen to perform a prestigious task. Sophie Dunnett (47) along with Sarah (23) and twins Emma and Oonagh (18) have been selected to carry the Queen’s baton when it comes to the far north in July.

A CAITHNESS man is to set off on a mammoth walk aiming to raise enough money for a piece of equipment that would have made his late wife’s life much easier. Ian Ellis lost his wife, Ros last June and he will walk from Duncansby Head to Cape Wrath in May, fundraising to buy a portable oxygen concentrator which he says would have helped her immensely.

HOPES that a community in north Sutherland may become eligible to be part of a rural discount fuel scheme have been raised, after the UK Government pledged to look into changing the qualification rules. Chancellor George Osborne admitted the Government had made a mistake by deciding to offer the scheme to areas based on postcodes. Residents in Bettyhill were left fuming in February when the village was left out of the discount initiative which would have enabled it to reduced the price of fuel by up to five pence a litre.

CAITHNESS Writers are calling on budding authors to put pen to paper and enter their new competition with the price of getting published in their next anthology up for grabs. The group has launched its first open short story competition with the only limit on entries being the 1,500 maximum word count. The closing date for submissions is June 30 and only people over 16 are being allowed to take part.

A CALL has been made for parcel price controls to end unfair delivery charges across the country. It was made by far north MSP Rob Gibson who argued such an approach would be better that “fiddling with postcodes”. He called for fair charges, to prevent what he described as “exploitative delivery services”, rather than trying to change the KW postcode.