Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has admitted the “entire situation” since the downgrading of maternity services in Moray has been “unacceptable”.
The SNP minister drew on his own wife’s experience of needing urgent treatment for their daughter’s birth in Dundee, not far from hospital.
Mr Yousaf said he would have “hated” to have been in the “utterly helpless” position experienced by others who have to be sent far from home in Moray.
He responded to Moray MP Douglas Ross who previously revealed how his wife Krystle was taken by ambulance from Elgin to Aberdeen to give birth to their second son, James.
Mr Ross raised his family’s experience in Holyrood again on Tuesday as Mr Yousaf updated parliament on a review into the future of Moray maternity services, which was published last week.
The health secretary pledged the government would “not waste any time” with its work to restore maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hosptial in Elgin.
Staff shortages caused a downgrading of the unit in 2018, which controversially led to most Moray mothers being sent 65-miles away, to Aberdeen, to give birth.
The new review recommended setting up, in the short-term, a community maternity unit at Dr Gray’s, linked to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, enabling about 20% of births to be born in Moray.
This proportion could rise to between 50% and 70% in the medium-term, if midwife-led, and consultant-supported, antenatal services can be established at Dr Gray’s.
Recalling his family’s experience in Holyrood, Mr Ross said: “To see your wife taken in a trolley through hospital, strapped into the back of an ambulance, and then taken through to Aberdeen, was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever faced.
“And at that moment you feel utterly helpless at the time your wife and unborn child need you most.”
Mr Yousaf said he would be visiting Elgin for talks with hospital staff and local campaigners later this month
He also spoke of his own daughter’s birth, in response to Mr Ross.
“I would have hated to be in the position that he was in, when my wife gave birth to our daughter Amal,” said the health secretary.
“She was already on a high risk pathway. We had already unfortunately miscarried a number of times before that.
“And my daughter was transverse, and therefore not in the right position. And she decided just for fun to arrive three weeks early as well.
“But we were only 20 minutes away from the hospital that we had to be at.”
‘I don’t find it acceptable’
Mr Yousaf said: “I recognise his feelings and emotions around being helpless, let alone having to be transported in the back of an ambulance like his wife had to be.
“So as a father, as opposed to the health secretary, let me say just how unacceptable I find the entire situation.”
He added: “I don’t find it acceptable. He is right, on behalf of his constituents, to be upset, angry and frustrated.”
Mr Yousaf also told Mr Ross the government had promised to invest in Raigmore Hospital, and that he would give “further assurances” that the Highland hospital would have the capacity to take additional expectant mothers from Moray.