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Hospital “downgrade” fear

WithybushTHE WALES Deanery could withdraw training for junior doctors at Withybush Hospital as an indirect result of the transfer of services offered by the Special Care Baby Unit to West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen.

The reduction in births at Withybush would mean not enough births would be taking place at the Hospital for training in essential skills to take place. The additional cessation of overnight paediatric care at the hospital could lead to further service cuts, as insufficient junior doctors would be available to provide medical cover.

Speaking to The Pembrokeshire Herald, local campaigner David Williams of Pembrokeshire Health Concern, said: “We have been fighting these cuts for years. One of the problems we have had is getting the public to believe that the effect of cutting one service would have such a serious knock-on effect.

“Now, it seems, what we have been saying all along would happen is likely to happen.

“We understand, from our own confidential sources among Health Board employees, that it is likely that SCBU, maternity, paediatric care will all transfer to Carmarthen and that Ward 12 will close.

“The Health Board has said it had no intentions to close these services, but must have known what the effect of cutting key services away from Withybush would be. It’s not as if my colleague and friend Peter Milewski (a consultant surgeon) has not pointed this out to the Board on any number of times.”

Mr Williams went on to say: “Childbirth is a difficult and stressful experience, even at the best of times. But imagine having to be whisked up to Carmarthen on poor rural roads. It’s not as if the Wales Ambulance Service’s performance can fill you with confidence.

“Look at a practical issue: if you have young children, how are you going to be able to find a family member or friend to take care of them if there is a complication of if you go into labour unexpectedly? Can you imagine what it would be like having to take a couple of kids up to Carmarthen and hope that someone will be available to pick them up, take them home, and look after them in an emergency?

“Pembrokeshire needs to have paediatric services and paediatric consultants close at hand. I speak from personal experience. When my grandson was poorly, his GP suggested it was a minor illness. Dr Gustav VasFalcao saw him in short order at Withybush and my grandson was immediately taken to Cardiff to be treated for leukaemia. I was able to get him seen quickly at Withybush, but would that be possible with the nearest consultant forty miles away in Carmarthen?

“The lives of mothers and children will be put at risk by the loss of services at Withybush. We have been saying this all along but the Local Health Board has not listened.”

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The Pembrokeshire Herald contacted Hywel Dda LHB for a statement regarding Withybush Hospital.

A spokesperson said: “We are having discussions with our consultants, nurses and midwives that relate to service models for the future that are sustainable and meet Royal College and Deanery standards.

“We face significant challenges – too many services reliant on temporary staff, the provision of training rotas for junior doctors particularly in paediatrics and the ability to meet the necessary clinical standards. We are at significant risk of losing training posts if we cannot find solutions that meet the Deanery’s requirements and services may become too fragile unless we plan for the future.

“The Board made a number of decisions in January in relation to neonatal services, complex obstetrics and paediatrics.

“Subsequently, the neo-natal element was referred to Welsh Government and the Health Board was requested to provide further details on our models for gynaecology and obstetrics which is being addressed by this on going planning work.

“It is our responsibility to find the right solution for Hywel Dda and this work is vital to ensure we do so.”