Highlands beauty a poor draw for doctors used to creature comforts
Two advertising campaigns have failed, with just two hirings
The struggling reform plans do mean that decades of permanent service on Eigg by Weldon and the GPs who came before her, Chris Tiarks and Hector MacLean will, however, finally end. The islanders, along with the 34 on Rum, the 30 on Muck and the 15 on Canna “excluding the dogs and the sheep” have reluctantly come to accept that those days are gone, says independent councillor, Allan Henderson.
Despite the region’s beauty, Gartshore accepts that the Highlands are not for everyone: “There are a lot of people who cannot live without easy access to the internet and wi-fi at every location.”
Creature comforts, such luxury shopping, or high street coffee shops, “just don’t exist here”, he points out, while incomers need “to be able to adopt and fit into” the locals’ way of life.
Besides advertising in the national and trade press, Gartshore has given interviews to Scottish journalists and those elsewhere in a bid to spread the word, but to little avail. The problem is not just the working hours, or the isolation, says Henderson.
“Unfortunately, most of these people seem to marry other professionals. So the partner needs to want to come as well, but also has to find work and that makes it more difficult. We’ll just have to get doctors to marry only doctors,” he says.
However, Henderson is proud of his home: “We’ve great schools, with excellent academic records. Any doctor would be made to feel welcome. We’re respectful towards doctors around here.”
For Rachel Weldon, the journey to Eigg, and a life in medicine that was immortalised in a BBC Radio 4 series about the lives of rural GPs called GPs Who Need GPS, ended sadly.
In the middle of April last year she was disqualified from driving for being over the alcohol limit after she was stopped by a police checkpoint during a visit to the mainland.
Having reported herself to the General Medical Council, Weldon faced the prospect of an investigation into her fitness to practise. Just weeks later she took her own life.
“Rachel was a lovely person,” said her friend and fellow doctor, Paul Kettle, “There was no substitute for her comical and penetrating conversation. We will miss her for all this but above all because we loved her. It was impossible not to.”