GLANGWILI Hospital , Carmarthen is creaking under the strain of delivering services on its already crowded site. Parking at West Wales General Hospital is chaotic and little thought has been given to accommodating those with relatives who need long term care and who do not have an endless supply of cash to pay for overnight stays in hotels. Social media abounds with the stories of many Pembrokeshire parents who have been less than impressed with the services provided for their sick or injured children and are calling for the return of 24 hour paediatric care – as a minimum – to Haverfordwest.
We spoke with health campaigner David Williams and young mum Jamie-lee Irving about their experiences at West Wales General Hospital. “The truth about the safety net” The transfer of services from Haverfordwest to Carmarthen has caused and continues to cause serious problems at West Wales General Hospital with no end in sight, as the Board continues to force more services away from Pembrokeshire and up to Carmarthen. Before services were moved, Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford promised a “robust safety net” would be in place before services were transferred.
Earlier this year, we revealed that Mr Drakeford’s idea of a safety net was a solitary “dedicated” ambulance for which staff– at that time – had not been recruited. Since that time, the Board has transferred 24 hour paediatric care from Haverfordwest, again with the re-assurance that service levels would not be affected and patients would experience little or no change in their experience of care. Ina letter to a local health campaigner, Mark Drakeford has claimed that a “park and ride” scheme will alleviate problems at the cramped Carmarthen site.
A letter to the minister
David Williams of Pembrokeshire Health Concern became aware of problems with overcrowding at Glangwili Hospital, and began compiling a dossier of issues that have arisen since the Board pressed on with its cuts to Pembrokeshire’s essential services. Mr Williams told The Herald: “I was recently in Carmarthen so drove around Glangwili to see for myself and it was unbelievable.
To mention a few issues, there were cars parked on yellow lines, half on and half off pavements, and double parked. “I mentioned this to shop keepers in Carmarthen town and they said it has become horrendous with many nurses going in 2 hours before shift just to try and get a parking space. “When consultant-led maternity services were moved, the refurbishment of existing wards at Carmarthen was incomplete. I have been told alterations will take up to 2 years to complete. “It seems pretty obvious that the Local Health Board pushed ahead with changes in the full knowledge that everything was not in place.”
Appalled, David wrote to Mark Drakeford and suggested he paid an unannounced visit to Glangwili to see the chaos for himself. Mark Drakeford’s reply revealed the extent of the Welsh Government’s indifference to the effects its policies are having and the truth about the much-lauded “safety net”. Far from there being a safety net in place, it is only now – after the transfer of vital services – that the Board and the Welsh Government are doing what Mark Drakeford assured everyone would be in place BEFORE that transfer took place.
After receiving Mark Drakeford’s response, David Williams wrote again to the Minister and told The Herald: “I went to Glangwili after car parking had been maximised. Judging by posts on Facebook pages many members of the public are unaware of social care vehicles or “dedicated discharge vehicles”; either because they are not informed by staff, or because none is available when needed.
“I am concerned that the Minister thinks that an arrangement that might be acceptable for visitors is also acceptable for women in labour, sick children, or the elderly & infirm. Those people, having been transported by car drivers appear to be expected, after a long journey of possibly over an hour’s length, to park at the showground, wait up to ½ an hour for bus and then another 15 minutes in bus to get to hospital. Alternatively those without cars take a train and bus ride from train station!” He continued: “Unfortunately the Minister did not reply to my question, ‘what went wrong?’.
Things were definitely not in place before moving services from Withybush as he promised and it now seems to be a catch up situation due to poor planning, no understanding of knock on effects and indecent haste in implementing.”
“Following the decision to concentrate inpatient obstetric, neonatal and paediatric services at Glangwili Hospital, car parking at the site has been maximised, with additional spaces having been made available in October. “Hywel Dda University Health Board already has a number of measures in place to alleviate pressures on parking availability. For instance, at both Prince Philip and Glangwili Hospitals, there are social care vehicles, which transport patients for outpatient appointments as part of local partnership agreements.
Similarly there are ‘dedicated discharge vehicles’ available to support their Welsh Ambulance NHS Trust colleagues. “As part of the ongoing work of the Transport Accessibility Group, there is membership from the confederation of patient transport to ensure there is regular dialogue with bus companies to enhance local public transport provision. “Discussions have taken place between the Health Board and Carmarthenshire County Council, who are keen to progress this issue.
“The current Park and Ride facility at Nantyci (Carmarthen Showground) has 400 car parking spaces, of which there is 75% capacity available. A proposal has been put forward to extend the current Park and Ride service to Glangwili Hospital, to run every half hour from 7am to 6.30pm which will take approximately 15 minutes, at a cost of £1 per day for patients and members of staff (or free for those in receipt of concessionary fares).
“In addition, the proposal will also explore the greater use of rail links into Carmarthen and the potential to include the railway station with the proposed hospital shuttle service. “Given the cost elements involved, once the proposal has been fully worked up, it will be submitted to the health board’s strategy and planning committee for approval, and it is anticipated this will take place by the end of March 2015.
“The new central transport unit in the health board will be taking stock of all current car parking arrangements in the coming months. “I hope this response is helpful. Should you have any additional concerns, I am sure the health board would be happy to discuss them with you further.”
THE GLANGWILI EXPERIENCE
The Pembrokeshire Herald contacted one mum, after her story appeared on the SWAT Facebook page. Jamie-lee Irving is a young mum with twins. We asked Jamielee could we use her story, one of many on the SWAT Facebook page, as a representative of the many there. The below are her words, her story: “I have twins. One of which was very poorly earlier this year. “Over the past 4 weeks, one of the twins has been poorly pretty much constantly.
Initially being diagnosed with tonsillitis on Ward 9. “After suffering a febrile convulsion at home due to a soaring temp, I took him to A&E at Withybush by car. “After 2 courses of antibiotics, he seemed to be getting better. Towards the middle of last week (the week ending Sunday, Dec 14) he totally went off his food/milk. He wouldn’t take more than 2-3oz and every time he managed to take a feed, he was vomiting.
This went on for 3 days solid. “He awoke at 12:15am, Saturday morning (Dec 13), I assumed for a feed. He was very unhappy, grizzly and generally not himself. He took 2oz and I put him back to bed. He began coughing violently, so I picked him up: he vomited everywhere. “I rang care on call who advised me to go straight to Glangwili. As I was packing a bag, he was sat on the sofa with my husband. He had another febrile convulsion.
This time I rang 999 straight away. “Then the ‘Glangwili Experience’ began. “The ambulance arrived. The paramedic took my son’s temperature, which had gone up since I’d taken it myself. They were very blasé about the whole thing and not overly concerned about the situation. “I was told I’d have to go to Glangwili, which I knew anyway. So off we went. I was strapped to a stretcher holding my 10 month old baby.
Everyone knows how rough a ride is in an ambulance… I almost dropped him 4 times as he wasn’t secured at all! “His oxygen SATS were taken with an adult probe, and therefore showed a terribly low reading, causing me to panic. I was told not to worry as the probe wouldn’t give a true reading anyway!! “I have to ask: why use it in the first place if this is the case?!
“The paramedic fell asleep for a lot of the journey and the ambulance was ill-equipped to deal with a child, let alone a baby. “I cannot fault the night staff at Glangwili at all. “We were seen almost immediately, given a side room as soon as one was available and brought tea and coffee by the nurses. The rest of the night my son was observed and allowed to sleep. The changeover happened around 8:00am, though we hadn’t seen a doctor or nurse since 5am “We were left in a side room not knowing what was happening.
We only saw a nurse at 11:30am because I enquired about what was happening. “I was told three different things by three different doctors, and finally told – by the most awfully rude nurse I’ve ever met: ‘You can go now as we need this bed’. “No medicine, no explanation… nothing. “I was still worried so took him to Withybush Ward 9 on Sunday. “We were seen immediately by the most amazing consultant I’ve ever met. She explained to me in 15 minutes what I’ve been wanting someone to tell me for almost 9 months; namely, what’s wrong with my son and how to manage it.
“He spent a few hours on Ward 9 and was then sent home with a special pump to help his cough/ breathing and has kept all his food and drinks down since. “Such a shame that this has happened to our hospital at Withybush. Bring back Ward 9 and its nurses and doctors and stop this silliness!” The Pembrokeshire Herald would like to hear your experiences of Glangwili Hospital since the transfer of services from Withybush. Whether negative or positive, please send your stories to [email protected]