EMERGENCY hospital services in West Wales “are not forgotten”, said the Minister of Health.
Eluned Morgan, spoke at the Senedd debate today (June 29) on calls to save the A&E of Withybush Hospital.
Campaigners have branded a proposal to build a new hospital between Narberth and St Clears as ‘dangerous’
Concerns continue to mount after Hywel Dda University Health Board submitted a business case to the Welsh Government for £1.3billion in investment. It seeks to provide planned and urgent care, with the new hospital operating as the health board’s trauma unit and main emergency department.
Steve Moore, chief executive of Hywel Dda, said reconfiguring hospital services would be the only way for the health board to maintain services in West Wales.
The health board has selected five possible sites for the new hospital – one in Narberth, two in Whitland and two in St Clears.
If plans were to go ahead, Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest and Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen would become community hospitals focusing on ‘patients who don’t need to be in acute care but need support “.
Speaking ahead of the debate, a spokesperson for campaign group Save Withybush said: “There seems to be a misconception among the health board executive that these proposals are some sort of ‘done deal’. They are not.
“The Board will soon hear that Pembrokeshire is ready to fight them at all levels to stop these dangerous proposals and that with our collective voice we will remind them that their job is to provide universal access to health services in accordance to the original principles of the NHS. Currently they don’t – they operate more like a corporate entity that has gone astray.”
During Wednesday’s debate in Senedd, Health Minister Eluned Morgan said Hywel Dda “continues to make it clear that duplication of services across its sites leads to fragility.
She added: “Multiple sites cannot maintain the necessary expertise or scale to provide optimal 24/7 care.
“As someone based in St Davids with a 90-year-old mum, I know I’d rather drive a few extra miles to see an expert quicker than spend hours in A&E as is currently the case.”
Ms Morgan said the health board’s priority was to ‘maintain safe services’ and it is continuing to work out the details of its plans.
“I understand the concerns of people in Pembrokeshire about Withybush Hospital and would like to make it clear that the hospital will continue to play an important role in the future of health services in this area,” she said.
Ms Morgan said people are “waiting longer than they would like because it is difficult to recruit at Withybush Hospital”.
“For the large number of people in West Wales awaiting surgery, the ability to separate emergency cases from planned care would be a positive step forward.”
She added: “A&E will be staying in Withybush until a hospital is built, we have a long way to go and many hurdles to overcome before we get there.”
Conservative MS of Preseli Paul Davies said forcing people to travel further afield for life-saving treatment and emergency services is totally unacceptable and could put lives at risk.
“By the health board’s own admission, Pembrokeshire desperately needs to upgrade its transport infrastructure, which means people living in areas like St Davids or Fishguard, for example, will take far more than an hour to reach the facilities,” he said.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru MS Mid & West Wales said: ‘I know many residents are extremely concerned about the impact of this increase in journey times to A&E, particularly given the large influx of people into the Pembrokeshire at the height of the tourist season, as well as the concentration of industrial activity seen on the Milford Haven waterway.”
“It is essential that the Board of Health and the Welsh Government pay close attention to the genuine concerns expressed by the people of Pembrokeshire and take decisive action to ensure that access to emergency services and the right of residents to access these services are not undermined by any proposal to reform the region’s health system. »
The health board is expected to discuss the five possible sites for the new hospital at its board meeting in August.