Assura Group officially opened its £4.8 million state of the art health centre in Milford Haven today, amongst murmurings from local Councillors that some dignitaries had been snubbed from the launch. Chris Martin, The Chairman and Trevor Purt, Chief Executive of the Local Health Board were there with the Health Minister, Prof. Mark Drakeford and local AM’s Joyce Watson and Paul Davies.
There were also representatives from the Community Health Council and a couple of reporters but the lack of an appearance from the Mayor or County Councillors who represent the 20,000 patients at the new 22,000 sq ft centre was an obvious to anyone who has ever attended a grand opening ceremony.
Town Councillors Stan Hudson and Jon Cole had not been invited either but turned up outside the clinic to voice their concerns to Assembly Members and the LHB about the car parking problem at the new centre.
Speaking from the pavement, Cllr Stand Hudson said “Why weren’t the mayor and Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council invited, or any local Councillors. How many other big health centres have opened like this in the last ten years? None.”
“I’m not willing to make any comment to why I think we were not invited” he added.
Cllr John Cole said “Landowners Assura has promised Milford Haven Town Council, and their Managing Director of Property, Andrew Darke has indicated, that they have no intention to build homes on the fenced of area of the car park and they are willing to lease the spaces to the Local Health Authority. I have passed this information onto our local Assembly Members and to Chris Martin, Chairman of the Local Health Authority.
“The District Valuer has said that only 38 spaces are needed. Experience has shown us that this, plus only four disabled spaces, is wholly inadequate. Patients are having to park on double yellow lines” he added.
Ian Tuddenham from LSP Developments, who developed the centre in conjunction with Assura, said: “The fenced off area of the car park is private land and is therefore not insured for use by clinic patients. We want to avoid insurance claims and claims of ‘posessionary’ title against our land.”
Assembly Member Joyce Watson told The Herald yesterday: “I have had an email from Milford Haven Town Council about the possibility of acquiring additional spaces, but this would obviously come at a cost to the Local Health Board.”
When asked about the fence Joyce Watson said “The fence is dangerous. When you put children into the mix I think we need to start thinking about safety.”
Ian Tuddenham then told The Herald: “It’s difficult when the fence keeps getting vandalised. We had to pay for the fence to be re-erected this morning after it had been knocked down, and driven over by vehicles”
“We know what our land is worth, I’m not going to mention figures now, but if the Council or Health Board wants to approach us then we are open to offers. As a developer we don’t want to be in the situation where we have to keep maintaining fences, it would be easier if we sold the land” he added.
When pressed as to why local Councillors or the Mayor had not been invited to yesterdays official opening of the 22,000 sq ft facility, Beverley Gardener from the Local Health Board said: “As you can see this is a busy working practice. We have to think about patients at the end of the day.”
“Its not about upsetting anybody, but how man people we can fit, especially when showing everyone around” she added.
Milford Haven Central representative Cllr Stephen Joseph was asked by text message by The Herald if he had heard of or been invited to the opening, he quickly replied “Not a word about it.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Health Minister, Prof. Mark Drakeford said: “Firstly a whole series of different players in primary care are here together in this building, all under one roof. I know that physical proximity really matters to people. Everything is here, no more need for phone calls or travelling across the county. Secondly, we know the future of the health service is in primary care. As much as possible this needs to be close to where people live, and what people have in this building is a different world what they had before.”
“Here in Milford Haven people can access a wide range of services and see the future of the NHS. Thirdly and finally, we use our primary care facilities to tackle health inequalities. We at the Welsh Assembly want there to be local services for people who really need them. Tackling health inequality through primary care is one of our key priorities” he concluded.