A NORTH Wales Labour council leader vowed to fight for a full working hospital to be restored at a seaside resort. Denbighshire Council has backed a motion supporting a full business case to be made for a multi-million redevelopment of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Rhyl.
Councillor Jason McLellan is determined to push ahead with the plan despite the Welsh Government acknowledging there were “significant capital cost pressures on current schemes” within North Wales. The Rhyl Alex, as it’s affectionately known, only offers outpatient services. Inpatient beds were removed in 2009 and there have been several multi-million pound proposals to build a new hospital at or near the site which have failed to get off the ground.
Last week Conservative Rhyl councillor Brian Jones put forward a motion, proposing a feasibility study to evaluate reinstating temporary inpatient beds at the hospital. Cllr Jones argued his motion would help ease bed blocking by elderly patients as a temporary measure whilst plans for a new hospital were on hold.
But Denbighshire Council rejected that idea, voting instead to support the full business case for redevelopment – a project that’s been on hold for a decade as it needs tens of millions of capital funding from Welsh Government. Cllr Elen Heaton, Denbighshire’s lead member for health and social care, said the hospital was unsafe for inpatients due to fire-safety issues.
Cllr McLellan however remained optimistic that the project could go-ahead: “We are aware of the huge financial constraints the Welsh Government is under, particularly on the capital budget. I’ve had frequent and direct meetings with the minister to argue the case and fight for the hospital to be built in Rhyl.
“That’s why Denbighshire County Council last week passed the motion that we would support the business case to get the hospital built, and I’m determined to work with the Welsh Government to get the hospital here in Rhyl.”
But Cllr Brian Jones questioned if the hospital would ever be built by the Labour-led council: “Over 10 years ago, the funding for the project was in place, and now time has rolled on, and it appears the funding is not there,” he said.
“It raises the question, where did the original funding go and when is there going to be any sight of the new funding from the Welsh Government for this project? “I was extremely disappointed about (last week’s Tory) the motion being amended.” The opposition wanted a feasibility study to be reviewed by the “Alex Angels” pressure group; Denbighshire County Council, and the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, to see if this measure would relieve bed blocking, he added.
” I believe, there are forces at work that don’t want any temporary solution going into the Alex on a short to medium-term basis because it will show the Welsh Government up – and the local politicians up here, that they are failing – the Labour councillors in charge of the Denbighshire cabinet.
He added: “The hospital is not happening. There is a serious behind-the-scenes issue going on here. Why isn’t it happening over a decade after it was in principle agreed? It has not happened. I don’t know what the motive is behind it. You are talking life and death here. There is no funding. The Labour-led Denbighshire council, they are paying lip-service to their masters in South Wales, aren’t they? And the general public don’t know what’s going on. We are living in the mushroom club.”
Cllr Jason McLellan responded to the criticism. “Brian Jones is not moving in the circles or speaking to the people I’m speaking to,” he said. “He is not sitting at the table that I’m at with the minister to get this done. He’s shouting from the outside.”
The Welsh Government was asked to explain the delay in building a new hospital.
A spokesman said: “There are significant capital cost pressures on current schemes. Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and its partners have been asked to consider all funding options available.”
Gareth Evans, acting executive director of therapies and health science at the health board said: , “We continue to await a decision from Welsh Government following the submission of our Full Business Case in 2021.
“The health board recently approved its 10-year estate strategy, which confirmed the development of a new facility at the Royal Alexandra Hospital as a key priority. The new hospital would enable us to deliver significantly improved services for the people of north Denbighshire from a modern, fit-for-purpose building, while addressing the significant compliance risks and failing engineering infrastructure issues on the present site.
“We continue to work with Denbighshire County Council on alternative funding sources to support the business case in the light of known national restrictions on capital budgets.”