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What next for Withybush?

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whats nextTHURSDAY, November 21 saw a packed Picton Centre host a public meeting regarding the future of Withybush Hospital.

Members of Save Withybush Action Team (SWAT) and the Facebook group Save Essential Services at Withybush and other worried Pembrokeshire residents jammed into the Centre to discuss their concerns about the future of Withybush General Hospital.

Consultant Obstetrician Chris Overton told the meeting:

“I’ve been doing this for nine years: I stood outside Withybush on December 27, 2004 handing out leaflets warning you that they were going to take away your services.

“We’re planning to have demonstrations every Saturday at 11am outside the hospital from January 4 because we want them to know we are still here, we want them to know we still care and we want them to know we’re not going to go away. We want a big event every Saturday all the way through January, February, March – as long as it takes.

He also spoke about the possibilities of what might happen if Withybush was to close and added: “If they close us down, if they transfer services to Glangwilli, If Glangwilli can’t cope there is a scenario where a woman might go into labour and get sent to other hospitals where they might be full.

County councillor speaks 

Cllr David Howlett was the only County Councillor to attend the meeting. He said:

“Earlier in the week we tabled an urgent question to the health minister but that had to be agreed by the presiding officer. Unfortunately the presiding officer for the national assembly of Wales declined that, which we thought was terrible.

“The Welsh Conservative group have a 60 minute debate next week (Wednesday 27, 4pm) they’ve chosen the topic of Withybush hospital and the Welsh minister will have to respond and they will give indication of what is going to happen.”

No confidence in Health Board 

The meeting was told that a number of services are threatened with closure but nothing has been decided yet. The meeting considered the possible scenarios if services were cut as feared. One member discussed the possibility of going to the Welsh Assembly when they are meeting the health minister to get the best impact and to make the AM’s sit up and take note of what they are doing.

Another member proposed a vote of no confidence in the chief executive and the board of the health authority. This motion was met with applause and was unanimously carried.

Public anger

While many members of the public gave heart-warming stories about their current situations, each highlighting a number of problems that would come to fruition should some services at Withybush close, others at the meeting expressed anger at the Health Board’s plans. Chris Overton told the meeting:

“The Health Board has been told it cannot make any announcements with regards to where services are going. A final decision will be made by the health minister on Tuesday January 21.

“We investigated the possibility of issuing proceedings in January of this year when the Health Board’s plans first became public. We now have a new opportunity because the health minister has made an announcement on September 24 and he’s referred it back to the health board. We must have that judicial review permission request in by December 24.

“There is only one way for the people of Pembrokeshire and that is to demand Withybush stays open as a fully functioning hospital.

“The Health Board senior management have been playing their cards very close to their chest and if it hadn’t been for the local press revealing what they are planning I doubt that we would be having this discussion.

“We all need to consider the safety of the people of Pembrokeshire.

“I have been begging our GPs to contact the Welsh government and the BMA secretary. If you can get your GP behind this campaign, we’ve got a significant chance of success”.

From the floor, it was suggested:

“We could look at when the Welsh Assembly are meeting with the health minister when we’ve got the most impact as many AM’s as possible making sure we have a demonstration in Cardiff when we’ve got the biggest impact towards the AM’s.”

Another member of the public asked:

“Can I point out that Mark Drakeford tweeted on Tuesday to the effect that the Welsh NHS has got to change and Hywel Dda is no exception? That rather suggests it doesn’t matter what we do he’s already made his mind up.”

Threat to tourism

Thinking about Pembrokeshire’s status as a tourist destination, considerable unease was also expressed at the potential loss of services:

“It’s very easy to make decisions which don’t affect you in any way shape or form.

“In the time I’ve been in Pembrokeshire there have been an awful lot of industrial accidents, none of these large industrial accidents produced huge amounts of casualties. The powers that be should realise that with what we have in the Haven, not to mention the thousands of people who come here in the summer, where roads are totally inadequate for that number of people if there is an emergency. We want an A & E service that can cope with accidents on an industrial scale.

“Pembrokeshire relies heavily on tourism. No one is going to come here because, quite simply put, it’s too dangerous to come to Pembrokeshire.”

John Osmond stood in the 2007 election for Plaid Cymru:

“I have a personal experience of how valuable Withybush is as during that campaign I was fishing off the rock at Martins Haven and slipped and dislocated my elbow and I wouldn’t have wanted to go much further than Haverfordwest on that occasion.

“We’re very fortunate in this campaign to have it lead by the consultants. This Mr Purt (the Health Board’s Chief Executive) is a man in a grey suit. A man or a woman in a white suit is worth a hundred men in grey suits.”

The Pembrokeshire Herald invited Hywel Dda LHB to comment on specific issues raised by the meeting and by the leaflet we reported upon last week. A spokesperson from the Health Board said:
“The health board was instructed by the Health Minister in September to clarify the delivery model for obstetric and paediatric services that would be provided to support a Level 2 neo-natal unit before a final Ministerial decision is made in relation to newborn services.

“The health board continues to discuss potential service models with staff and so meetings are taking place at a hospital, county and health board-wide level.

“We intend to respond to Welsh Government in the next few weeks.

“A&E remains open 24/7 at Withybush Hospital and no decision has been taken to reduce these hours of service.”

“A gap of trust”

Simon Hart MP spoke to The Pembrokeshire Herald:

“I am enormously frustrated by the Local Health Board. It seems to have enormous difficulty communicating with and generating trust among either members of its staff or the Pembrokeshire public.

“Every time an announcement is due it is trailed by rumour and counter-rumour. Months of uncertainty seem to be followed by baffling decisions that are hard to understand.

“I speak often to members of Hywel Dda staff who express their deep personal concerns about the future while the rumour mill does its work

“Staff members are doing a difficult job in impossible circumstances. There is a real gap of trust and it is up to the Health Board to sort that out; it needs to stop being secretive and start being open and transparent, not only with its employees but also with Pembrokeshire.”

 

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Haverfordwest: Pupils collected by parents after feeling unwell in school following Italy ski trip

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THREE PUPILS from Haverfordwest High School have been collected by parents after feeling unwell today (Feb 25). It is understood that all the pupils involved were on a half term skiing trip to Italy.

This has been confirmed by a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson.

No case of COVID-19 has been confirmed.

The Pembrokeshire pupils were in the resort of Fanano, the council said.

In a letter to all staff, head teacher Jane Harries said: “The ski trip which returned from Italy on the weekend did not travel to the two areas of lock-down in Italy affected by the corona-virus. Advice is for staff or pupils who have returned from Italy (not the quarantined areas of Lombardy and Veneto) should they develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, they should immediately please follow this advice: stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would the flu, and call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country.
“They do not need to follow this advice if they have no symptoms.
“Staff who have any symptoms have been sent home and we are in the process of contacting all parents and pupils on the trip…”

A school statement released at 14:31 HRS on Tuesday reads: “We do have two pupils who were on family holidays in these areas and they have gone home.

“Three staff have been sent home as a precaution and we are in the process of contacting all parents of pupils on the trip. If they then feel that their son/daughter has any of the above symptoms they can come to collect them and follow the advice above.

“At the time of making this statement 15 parents have collected pupils although many of these are parents who are collecting pupils due to concern over messages on social media.  There are no confirmed cases of corona-virus at Haverfordwest High VC School.

“Over the border in England, one school has closed, and another has shut its sixth form today after students returned from half-term ski trips in Italy. The two schools, both in Cheshire, made the decision on Tuesday and comes as Italian authorities struggle to control an outbreak of COVID-19.

“A message to parents from Richard Pollock, the headteacher of Cransley School in Northwich, said the closure would remain in place for the rest of the week in order to “completely minimise” the risk of infection. Sky News reported that this comes after a number of students and staff at the school had visited Bormio – 350km from where the Pembrokeshire pupils were skiing – and had since been advised to self-isolate.

“Regardless of the current Public Health England advice (that the school should remain open to all other pupils) I have decided… to completely minimise possible spread of infection and close the school for the remainder of the week,” he wrote.

“During this time, the school will be able to conduct a deep clean and monitor the results of tests amongst those pupils who are currently showing flu-like symptoms.”

Meanwhile, Brine Leas Academy in Nantwich said on Twitter that is had decided to close its sixth form “due to staff shortages.”

 

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Folly Farm’s giving away 5,000 free places to primary school pupils

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IN CELEBRATION of the birth of a critically endangered Eastern black rhino in January, Folly Farm is offering primary school pupils in Wales the opportunity to visit for free to learn more about its conservation work.

The free school visits week will take place between Monday 01 June and Friday 05 June 2020 to coincide with World Environment Day on Friday 05 June. Folly Farm’s zoo keeping team will be running activities each day to highlight conservation work, breeding programmes and sustainable initiatives at the attraction to educate and inspire school children.

Tim Morphew, zoo curator at Folly Farm, said; “The birth of our critically endangered Eastern black rhino, the first rhino to be born in Wales, is such a significant event, not just for us here at Folly Farm but also for the breeding programme and the species. We wanted to use this amazing opportunity as a catalyst to highlight our conservation work and motivate the next generation to act.
“We’re delighted to be offering free school visits to primary schools across Wales for a week of organised activities designed to educate and provide school children with some key takeaways about how they can make better decisions for the environment.”

5,000 free places will be provided for the week, up to a maximum of 1,000 visits on each day. The successful schools will be chosen on a first come first served basis and notified by the 27 March 2020.

Primary schools in Wales need to apply for the free places by filling in an application form on Folly Farm’s website indicating their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of day and total number of pupils.

The application form can be found here: https://www.folly-farm.co.uk/news/free-school-visits/

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Stephen Crabb MP calls for an end to Cawdor closure plans  

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THE IMPORTANCE of Cawdor Barracks will be debated this week in Parliament thanks to Preseli MP Stephen Crabb.

In a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday (Feb 26), the local MP will discuss the importance to Pembrokeshire of the army base at Brawdy before urging the Minister for Defence to reconsider its closure.

The facility was first opened as RAF Brawdy in 1944 and, over the years, has provided a base for all three branches of the armed forces. During the Cold War, the US Navy also resided at Brawdy, to monitor underwater listening devices in the Atlantic Ocean. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, large-scale changes to NATO armed forces resulted in both the US Navy and the RAF leaving Brawdy.

The British Army’s 14 Signal Regiment, specialists in Electronic Warfare, took up residence in 1995. It is the only British Army Regiment capable of conducting sustainable electronic warfare in support of national operations worldwide.

Intended as a temporary base for the Regiment, Brawdy has proved a popular location for the soldiers and their families with many putting down deep roots in the County.  With the Regiment used heavily on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other overseas locations, Pembrokeshire people have turned out in their hundreds for local Homecoming parades. The Regiment has been awarded the Freedom of both St Davids and Haverfordwest.

With nearly 600 troops at Brawdy and over 120 children from forces families in Pembrokeshire’s schools, the barracks play an important role in the County. Economic analysis of the closure of Cawdor Barracks estimated the effect at £26-£30 million.

However, for more than 10 years there has been uncertainty over the future of Cawdor Barracks with plans for full closure put forward and then changed. The year 2024 is the current date for closure of the base.

In the lead up to the debate, Stephen Crabb said: “For over 75 years, Brawdy has played a hugely important role in our national security, and those who have been based there have become an important part of the Pembrokeshire community.

“The uncertainty surrounding its future, with its closure date being pushed back time and time again is unsettling for those soldiers and their families who have made Pembrokeshire their home.

“In securing this debate, I hope to highlight the importance of Cawdor Barracks to Pembrokeshire and I’ll be calling on the Government to end the uncertainty over the base, putting an end to the on-off closure plans that have caused so much confusion for the soldiers and for the local community.

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