Health Changes in Pembrokeshire – Have your say!

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    Business Meeting 2nd February 2012 (Your Health – Your Future)

    The NHS is changing and the Hywel Dda Health Board has responsibility to provide all the necessary healthcare services for Pembrokeshire as well as Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.  Peter Milewski talked to the February meeting on behalf of SWAT (Save Withybush Action Team).

    Peter Milewski spoke to the February meeting of U3A.  Peter retired as a Consultant Surgeon, in October 2010, after 40 years in the National Health Service.  For 21 of those years he was based at Withybush Hospital. His visit was particularly pertinent, given a 'leaked' document from Hywel Dda Health Board last year, whose proposals indicated  an intention to transfer core services from Withybush Hospital  to Carmarthen. Six years ago, similar proposals led to the creation of  SWAT (Save Withybush Action Team) who  successfully challenged them.  SWAT has reconvened, believing that the present Hywel Dda proposals will lead to an erosion of health provision for the county of Pembrokeshire.  They acknowledge that in a time of rising demand and dwindling resources changes must be made, but believe that Hywel Dda is failing in its responsibility to open the proposals to public consultation and debate.  Peter, with his wealth of knowledge and expertise, is a significant contributor to SWAT and his talk outlined their concerns.

    Statistically an assessment of County Assets requiring core health service provision demonstrated that the needs of Pembrokeshire were greater than those of Carmarthen where the areas east are well provided for.  Additionally, Pembrokeshire is  a rural area, and the implications of transfer of patients to Carmarthen, should core services be removed from Withybush, is one that concerns most people.  Despite the high regard in which  the Ambulance Service is held by all, they should not, Peter reminded us, be relied on as mobile surgical units. Peter illustrated this with an episode from 'Doc Martin', which although fictitious, was rather chilling.

    Peter explained how units and departments within hospitals are interdependent, and that their incremental closure can have a considerable impact on those remaining. This can lead to delays in treatment, and potentially affect outcomes, which can then be cited as a factor in removing or transferring significant services. 

    Hywel Dda has argued that there is a problem filling vacant posts at Withybush Hospital. For present employees of Hywel Dda uncertainty leads to anxiety and low staff morale, which in turn leads to resignations. There are also implications for recruitment.  Long delays in advertising posts and further delays in applicants proceeding to interview, may discourage potential medical staff who would otherwise be interested  in vacancies in this area.  Lack of transparency, delay, and an unwillingness to clarify the details of proposed changes, can  erode the determination of the public to participate.  Combined, all of these can result in the downgrading of a hospital by default.

    Peter emphasised to us all, the need to be both vigilant and as well informed as possible in respect of our local health services.  He recommended participation in the 'Health Fairs' Hywel Dda have organised which are taking place in Pembrokeshire this February. He encouraged us to be both enquiring and challenging at those 'Fairs', preferably requesting that Hywel Dda respond to controversial proposals in writing, as well as doing so verbally at the meetings.

    Should any members be interested in perusing the activities and concerns of SWAT, these are available at  present on their website.  For those who do not have access to this, SWATare in the process of creating an information line by telephone. This will be given to the U3A Newsletter, as soon as it becomes available.

    Our Chairman has, in the name of balance, exercised her not inconsiderable powers of persistence and persuasion with the Hywel Dda Health Board, in the pursuit of a representative to come to one of our meetings and give us their view. So far she has been unsuccessful.

    Report: June Conlon

    To find out more on this important issue: Hywel Dda Health Board Pembrokeshire SWAT

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