Politician Mark Griffin has launched a campaign to support parents faced with crippling costs while their child is in hospital.
The Central Scotland list MSP has first-hand experience after his daughter Rosa was born 12 weeks premature, weighing just over 1lb.
Rosa spent five months in Wishaw General hospital and her condition put life on hold for Mr Griffin and his wife Stephanie, a former councillor.
Now Mr Griffin has called on the Scottish Government to create a ‘family fund’ to ease the significant financial burden on thousands of families in Scotland who have ill babies in hospital – often for long periods of time.
Due to time lost at work as well as other costs such as travel, accommodation, food, care for other children, parents can spend £282 for every week their infant is in neonatal care or £2,225 on average over a child’s total stay in hospital.
Mr Griffin said: “I’m paid well, but even my family felt the squeeze when Rosa was in hospital.
“I can’t imagine how people on low incomes deal with such costs that see their bank balances collapse. It’s such a big outlay.
“We travelled from Cumbernauld to Wishaw, but there were other people coming from further afield, including Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Fife.
“There were people who were really struggling financially, so much so that some were not able to see their sick babies on a daily basis.
“It was heart-breaking to witness that.
“One of the most important factors for the health of a premature baby is ensuring that the child gets access to breast milk to deal with the risk of infection.
“It is ridiculous that mums are prevented from doing so because they do not have the financial means to get to the hospital.
“The Scottish Government must step in and set up a family fund that is targeted at low income parents.
“A payment for a short while would make a massive difference to thousands of families across Scotland.”
“It is not acceptable that support is available if a baby is at home, but not when in hospital.
“The Government should address this gap.
“I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and hope to meet with her to discuss my proposal further.”
Meanwhile Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive of charity Bliss Scotland, backed Mr Griffin’s plan.
She said: “Across hospitals in Scotland, a lack of facilities, accommodation and financial support is keeping parents from being with their babies when they need them most.
“The Scottish Government must take urgent action to deliver on their commitments to these families by providing support through a family facilities fund.”