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Protestors: ‘Stop the downgrade!’

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the downgradeON THE WEEKEND that Hywel Dda LHB acknowledged that Accident and Emergency Services at Withybush Hospital were “under extreme pressure”, protesters gathered outside to protest about plans to downgrade maternity and paediatric provision at the Hospital.

The timing could scarcely have been worse for the Health Board to make such an announcement. With minor injury units closed in Tenby and Pembroke Dock within the last twelve months, ostensibly to ensure full A & E service provision at Withybush, the Health Board’s request to “Choose Well” and rely on GP’s and pharmacist fuelled the concerns of over 700 protesters gathered at the hospital gates.

“Only go to A&E if you really need it,” said a spokesperson for the health board.

“The public are therefore being urged to help reduce the pressures by ‘Choosing Well’ to ensure busy emergency services are available to those who most need them, but also that you get the right treatment, in the right place and in the shortest possible time.”

Hywel Dda LHB refused permission for protesters to stand in the hospital car park. Those protesting by the hospital gates expressed fears that the downgrading of key services at Withybush represents the thin edge of the wedge. The mood was angry but determined as speaker after speaker heralded the importance of Withybush’s services to Pembrokeshire and condemned the Local Health Board’s plans to downgrade services. Speaking after the rally, Paul Davies said “The protest outside the hospital on Saturday demonstrates the huge strength of feeling against closing the Special Care Baby Unit and the opposition to the potential downgrading of other services in Pembrokeshire. Local people are angry that life saving and core emergency services could be under threat. I want to congratulate residents for turning out on Saturday to show their support. It’s essential that in Pembrokeshire we all work together to ensure that vital life-saving services are retained in the County.”

Plaid Cymru’s Preseli candidate John Osmond, also joined protesters against service cuts at Withybush Hospital.

Speaking to the hundreds of local people, John said; “We won the fight to save Withybush hospital in 2007 and, together, we can win the fight again.

“When Withybush was last under threat, in the run-up to the 2007 Assembly election the main response I heard on the doorstep was that there was nothing we could do – the decision had already been made. But my message then was that we can make a difference if we stand up to be counted and use our vote. If there’s one thing politicians take note of, it’s the ballot box.”

Vicky Moller told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Storms at Newgale beach hurled a wall of pebbles from the beach to cover the A487 on January 5th. The road was closed causing a long cross-country diversion along single lane roads.

Alternatively a wider diversion meant a 24 mile journey to Haverfordwest and a 54 mile journey to Glangwili.

“This is just one example of the hold-ups that often happen in Pembrokeshire, due to traffic in the summer, storms in the winter, road works in between.

“Hywel Dda LHB’s proposal seems to be to leave areas at risk of storms, where tourists swell the population and industrial high risk zones with no-one able to perform emergency operations.”

Another protester said:“If this hospital closes wards we will have to travel many miles to get treatment. The cost to us in money we may live with but what is the cost of a child’s life”

As revealed by the Herald last week, in other Welsh maternity units that have been downgraded from consultant –led to midwife-led, an average of 8 women a week have to be transferred back to a consultant-led unit: in the case of expectant mums at Withybush Hospital this would mean a lengthy road journey by ambulance to West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen, over fifty minutes away.

Responding to the protest, a Hywel Dda spokesperson said

“ Our intention remains to retain a paediatric, gynaecology and obstetrics presence at Withybush Hospital; however this remains subject to further discussion with the scrutiny panel and clinicians.”

The Herald understands that a protest march is planned for the weekend of January 25, 2014.

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County Council seeking ‘full cost recovery’ for Penally Camp involvement

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COUNCILLORS will hear an update on Tuesday (January 26) on the County Council’s involvement with Penally Asylum Camp.

The council is requesting full cost recovery from the UK Government.

As of January 8, there were still 124 service users on the site with others having already being moved to alternative accommodation.

Transfers to and from the site have also been halted under the Welsh Government’s Alert level 4 coronavirus restrictions.

In a report to the Council’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, it says that those opposed to the asylum process have targeted the camp to publicise their views which has resulted in ‘significant social media activity’.

It also states that groups and individuals publicly supporting the Asylum seekers or putting support processes in place continue to face high levels of abuse on social media.
‘There also remain a number who do not recognise the importance of adhering to COVID restrictions creating community concerns’, the report adds.

It goes on to say that although the current permitted development rights ends on March 21, a planning application for a sixth month extension is anticipated.

Tuesday’s Committee meeting begins at 10am.

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Concern over misuse of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard

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PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being asked not to wear the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower as proof of exemption from wearing a face covering, unless they have a genuine need.

The call comes following concern that the lanyards, commonly used as a discreet way of helping the wearer inform staff, colleagues and health professionals that they need additional support, help or time, are being used to avoid wearing a face covering during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jessica Hatchett, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Access Officer, said “Any fraudulent use of the Sunflower reduces its effectiveness for those who genuinely need it, as not all disabilities are obvious.

“I would like to remind those who need the lanyard to get it from a legitimate source, and not pay higher prices for copies that promote incorrect use.

“Even if you are exempt from wearing a face covering, you may not need the lanyard.”

A spokesman for the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower said: “We in no way condone the misuse of our Sunflower lanyard, and find it distressing it might be used for this purpose.

“We do not ask for proof of the wearer’s disability, as some are yet to be diagnosed, or have conditions that are difficult to diagnose.

“The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is designed to discreetly indicate that the wearer or someone with them has a hidden disability – if that is not you, then please desist from wearing our Sunflower lanyard.”

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is a global scheme, with an increasing number of businesses and organisations in the UK, including supermarkets, train and bus stations, leisure facilities and the NHS, now recognising the lanyard.

Face coverings remain a legal requirement in all indoor public places in Wales, including public transport and taxis, and where takeaway food and drink is sold.

This applies to everyone aged 11 and over, unless an exception applies. Children under 11 do not have to wear a face covering.

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Pembrokeshire residents aged 75 to 79 years to receive their first COVID vaccine

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LETTERS will arrive in the coming days inviting Pembrokeshire residents aged 75 to 79 years to receive their first COVID vaccine at a mass vaccination centre, Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB) has announced.

The letter will provide an appointment time at one of the following mass vaccination centres: Haverfordwest – Pembrokeshire Archives, Prendergast; and Tenby – Tenby Leisure Centre.

These mass vaccination centres will provide a safe environment, space to maintain social distancing while allowing more people to be vaccinated as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

It is vital that you make every effort to attend your appointment.

You will need to delay your vaccination if you have had a positive coronavirus test within 28 days of this appointment or if you are unwell with a fever, have a new continuous cough or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell.

Please let us know if you cannot attend or need to delay your appointment as soon as possible by calling the number provided in your appointment letter. This will mean we can give your appointment to someone else and save NHS resources.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Until now we have been using our mass vaccination centres to vaccinate our front-line staff in health, social care and care homes. With over 85% of front-line health workers having had their first dose, and seeing rapid progress with care home staff and social care staff, we are now moving onto the next phase of our delivery plan.

“The opening of our mass vaccination centres to the public will allow us to offer more people a vaccine as soon as supplies are available to us. If you have received an invitation it is because you are in a priority group and at greater risk of complications if you catch COVID-19.

“Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives and the COVID vaccine offers our community hope. By receiving your vaccine, you will continue to play your small but incredibly important part in protecting yourself, the most vulnerable in our communities and our local NHS. Thank you.”

When you attend your appointment please bring with you:

Your appointment letter

Some ID such as your passport, driving license or utility bill in your name
A face mask (if you don’t have one, you will be given one)
People aged 80 years and over will continue to be invited by their GP practice to receive the vaccine, all of which have now received a supply of vaccines. The health board has also commissioned GP practices to vaccinate housebound patients and residents in our care homes.

Hywel Dda UHB is working to offer a vaccine to everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 by mid-February. People over 70 years of age and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable as part of priority group 4 will be invited next to receive a vaccine. The health board will provide further information at the earliest opportunity.

Please do not attend any vaccination venue without an appointment and do not contact your GP, pharmacy or health board to ask when you will be invited. People are being invited to receive the vaccine in order of priority and we thank you for your patience.

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