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Withybush: Health chief speaks to The Herald

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health chiefFOLLOWING loud public protests about the Local Health Board’s plans for the future of Withybush Hospital, local media were invited to meet with Health Board Chair Trevor Purt for interviews in the Board’s offices at Merlin’s Court, Winch Lane, Haverfordwest.

The Herald put questions to the Health Board chief which our readers and correspondents raised with us about the decision to close the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush and transfer services elsewhere and about the future of health care at the Haverfordwest site.

Polite but firm, Trevor Purt did not allow much of the exasperation he must undoubtedly feel spill over into his answers. When it did, he was clear and forthright. To be sure, he was eager to get his message across and – in terms – that message was that changes to service provision in Pembrokeshire have not been driven by a determination to cut costs but in order to ensure quality of care.

We asked him first about the announcement of the “safety net” made by Health Minister Mark Drakeford in the Senedd on January 21. Did the announcement of the “safety net” mean that the arrangements announced in September were incomplete?

“We had put a safety net in place. It was never going to be the case that we would shut the provision at Withybush down on one day and shift it over to Carmarthen the next. That would be impractical and illogical. There are twelve months while we examine the progress of the service change and that will be done by a panel drawn from the Community Health Council and other stakeholders.

“Not even our sternest critics suggest that the model we propose is wrong: the dispute is about the location of the unit at which we will deliver centralized services for complex births. As a board we have to look beyond parochial concerns and deliver the best possible outcomes for the whole of the population the Board serves.”

But why Glangwili?

“We chose Glangwili ahead of Withybush because it has better links to Morriston Hospital and the wider Health Board area. I have heard the suggestion that we have not discussed our plans with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board. We have considered developments at Morriston very carefully indeed and been in close communication with our counterparts there. People should not let rhetoric get in the way of the facts.

“Plans are not made in isolation, we have a range of considerations to take into account. If we had chosen Withybush, we would be facing the same protests in Carmarthen as we are in Haverfordwest. I understand people are angry and frustrated but I believe that is because there has been a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation.

“I want to make a couple of things very clear: the Royal College of Midwives has told us that in order for a junior doctor to get sufficient expertise in obstetrics they need to be exposed to a range of types of case. They have said that the range required means that a unit has to have 2,500 births annually. That is the position of the professional bodies as well. The Deanery and the GMC require doctors to be fully accredited and to maintain that accreditation. If we have insufficient accredited doctors, all complex births would be taken to Morriston and none would take place in the Health Board area.

“This is not about money. This is about delivering a safe and sustainable future for obstetric provision across the Health Board’s area. In many respects, we are suffering from a long term structural problem. It is a numbers game, but the number is not money: it is about attracting, training and retaining staff.

“Secondly, we announced our plans last January. The CHC did not raise any issue about switching to a midwifery led obstetric service. Its objection only related to SCBU. The idea that this is a sudden change or shock announcement is wrong. We made our plans clear last year.

“The experience in Powys, where there has been a midwife-led obstetric service since 2001, has been that that service has been effective and safe. We anticipate that the majority of expectant mums will be able to choose where to give birth and most births will take place where they are planned to take place. It will be mum’s choice in the overwhelming majority of cases.

“In addition, the Emergency Medical Response Service – which is being planned for the whole of Wales – will ensure very quick access to emergency care. When there is an emergency, patients will be stabilized locally, where possible, and then taken to the appropriate unit for specialist care, whether that is at Glangwili or Morriston.”

But what about the decision on paediatric care? Is the health board “salami-slicing” services as critics have claimed?

“No. I want to make it as clear as possible. Our plans for obstetrics were announced last year at the end of the consultation. This is not new and, again, our plans for paediatric care were not criticised by the Community Health Council. They did not form part of the referral to the Minister and were not considered by the expert panel on the future of the Special Care Baby Unit.”

What about A & E at Withybush? Part of the rationale in closing the Minor Injury Units at Tenby and Pembroke Dock was that this would preserve services at Withybush. Is A & E safe?

“I want to make this as clear as I can: I do not foresee that we will not continue to provide an emergency 24/7 service at Withybush.“That service configuration might be with middle grade staff or a GP service, but we will maintain a 24/7 A & E service at Withybush.”

Our interview ends. Our friends at Radio Pembrokeshire are waiting with a large microphone outside. We will be meeting again with Trevor Purt in March. Let us know what questions you want to put to him and we will do our best to work them into our meeting.

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Major changes to waste and recycling services in Pembrokeshire

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THE FIRST of three major changes to waste and recycling services in Pembrokeshire is due to be rolled out soon, among which will be a new initiative where householders will be asked to demonstrate that their black bag waste does not contain any recyclable items.

The aim is to encourage more people to recycle as the County Council faces punitive fines if Welsh Government recycling targets are not met.

Two further significant changes to the Council’s waste service will take place later this year – the introduction of a free fortnightly Absorbent Hygiene Products collection (on request) starting in August and more changes to the kerbside collection services from October.

“We anticipate that before making the journey to their local centre, many householders will have already ensured that their general bin bag is free of any recyclable material,” explained Councillor Cris Tomos, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment.

“If recyclable items are in the general waste bags then householders will be asked to remove them and simply place them in the recycling containers.’

“We are determined to improve to ensure that we hit our targets. If we fail, the Council will be heavily fined and it would be unacceptable to have to divert much needed cash from essential services.

“Every one of us has a duty to recycle. It is a hot topic at the moment, especially with the concern being shown by environmentalists like David Attenborough over the amount of plastic in our oceans.

“We therefore anticipate that householders will show support for this initiative and recycle responsibly in their own homes.”

Later this month, staff at the county’s six waste and recycling centres will be handing out leaflets and speaking with householders and businesses explaining how the new bag-sorting scheme will operate.

The Council’s communications team will also be sharing information and guidance via their social media channels and the County Council website.

Explaining why the bag-sorting scheme has to work, the Council’s Head of Environmental Services and Public Protection, Richard Brown, said: “We need to increase the amount that we recycle in Pembrokeshire to meet Welsh Government’s targets.

“We currently recycle 60% of our waste but we need to recycle 64% by next year and 70 per cent by 2024 – 2025. If we miss these targets, Welsh Government will fine Pembrokeshire £140,000 for every one per cent we miss the target by.

“These changes will help ensure Pembrokeshire becomes more recycling focused and meets the targets, while also improving our environment. Wales is at the forefront of recycling on global scale and we are just a part of the story.

“We want to assure householders that, far from being a reduction in service, this is an initiative that will help everyone to dispose of the same amount of waste but in a better way.

“Our operatives will offer on-site support to anyone who is unsure about the process but our message is that these changes are not unique to Pembrokeshire.”

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Head to a lifeguarded beach this Easter Bank Holiday say Lifeboats

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WITH sun and warm temperatures predicted over the next few days, many people are likely to head to the coast to enjoy the Easter bank holiday. Although the air temperature may be warm, the waters around our coasts will still be very cold. The RNLI is urging people to stay safe and to head to a lifeguarded beach.

Although it is early in the year, RNLI lifeguards are patrolling a variety of beaches around the UK and will be on hand to offer safety advice.

The charity is encouraging anyone visiting the coast to head to a lifeguarded beach and to swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards. Lifeguarded beaches provide much greater safety for general beach users, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts.

In warm weather, a dip in the sea can seem very inviting, but our waters are still very cold at this time of year. Sudden immersion in cold water puts people at risk of suffering cold water shock, which triggers the instinctive but life-threatening reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.

Brian Robson, Community Safety Manager for the RNLI, says: “While we are all looking forward to some spring-like weather, we’d like to remind people that the conditions around the coast can change quickly and still be challenging, and should you go in the water intentionally or unintentionally, the sea is extremely cold at this time of year, making cold water shock a real danger. If you find yourself suffering from the effects of cold water shock, fight your instincts to thrash about or try to swim – instead, relax and float on your back until the effects have passed and you can swim to safety.

“We want people to enjoy the coastline and therefore urge people to respect the water and take extra care when visiting the coast, by taking some basic precautions. Plan your activity – check the weather and tide conditions before going to sea, and make sure your equipment is all in working order.

“Carry a means of calling for help should something go wrong, know your capabilities and make sure you wear the necessary safety equipment for your chosen activity. To find out how you can stay safe while enjoying your water activity, visit rnli.org/safety.

The RNLI is also advising people to enjoy the sun safely by making sure they apply sunscreen generously, with at least a factor 15, spend time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest between 11am-3pm and by wearing protective kit such as a shirt, sunglasses or a cap.

To find your nearest lifeguarded beach, please visit: https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches

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Haverfordwest: ‘Serious facial injuries’ after Castle Square attack

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POLICE are asking the public for help following a horrific attack in Haverfordwest last month which left a young man with serious facial injuries.

The incident took place in the early hours of March 17 on Castle Square

A police spokesperson said: “Police are appealing for witnesses to a serious assault on a male which occured in the early hours of the 17th March 2019 on Castle Square, Haverfordwest.

“The Victim who is a 20-year-old male received serious facial injuries.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact PC 445 GOSLING on 101 or contact anonymously crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

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