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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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Crabb backs veterans of Irish Troubles

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VETERANS of the Northern Irish Troubles have been backed by Preseli MP Stephen Crabb during votes in the House of Commons.

In the absence of a functioning administration in Northern Ireland, Members of Parliament have been voting in an effort to keep Northern Ireland running.

Stephen Crabb co-sponsored an amendment put forward by Johnny Mercer MP which passed. The Secretary of State must now report on the options available to allow veterans of the Troubles to assist in a truth recovery process, for the benefit of bereaved families, without fear of prosecution.

Commenting following the vote, Stephen Crabb MP said: “This is a positive step towards ensuring the hounding of veterans is stopped. The proud, local veteran community, along with myself, have been deeply troubled by the ongoing pursuit of current and former British Soldiers for actions carried out while under orders on active service.

“I have made the point previously to Ministers that we risk a serious breach of trust with our Armed Forces by opening the door to such prosecutions. The pressures placed on a solder in conflict situations are enormous and it cannot be right that actions carried out in these circumstances are re-opened decades later by people with no understanding of what happened on the ground.“

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Identical ‘call-out’ within three days for Fishguard RNLI lifeboat

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FISHGUARD RNLI inshore lifeboat launched on Thursday evening 18 July to the very same inflatable dinghy they rescued on Monday July 15

The inshore lifeboat and three volunteer crew launched at 8.45pm after the inflatable was reported drifting out to sea from Fishguard harbour. The flimsy inflatable and the young men onboard were taken under tow back to the area of Goodwick beach and they were again spoken to regarding the dangers of inflatable craft. On this occasion there was an off-shore wind and an ebbing tide which potentially presented much more dangerous conditions for the persons onboard.

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Rosslare ready to go it alone

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THE UK Government stands ready to revoke legislation governing the relationship between the ports of Fishguard and Rosslare.

The abolition of the current arrangements is a step closer according to Irish newspaper reports of a recent meeting between Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Fianna Fáil’s transport spokesperson Robert Troy and Wexford TD James Browne.

According to the reports, Mr Grayling told the Irish politicians that the UK has ‘no strategic or economic’ interest in keeping the ports’ governance structure.

The Irish Government, meanwhile, regards Rosslare as a major part of its Brexit plans and has acquired further land to provide additional facilities there.

The ports are governed by a UK Act of Parliament from 1888, which created the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbour Company.

The Act continued to govern the relationship between the Ports, even after most of Ireland secured its independence from the – then – British empire.

However, the old legislation has – in the view of Irish TD James Browne – hindered the Irish Government’s ability to expand activities at Rosslare to the benefit of the local and Irish economies.

Stena Line: Looking at the long term development of both ports

Fishguard and Rosslare ports are part of the one company, namely the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway and Harbours Company set up by an Act of Parliament.

Mr Browne explained to The Herald: “In effect, ownership of the port lies with UK government. But in turn the ports are effectively run as private companies: Irish Rail control and operate the Rosslare end and Stena control and operate the Fishguard side and there is an agreement in place as to the division of profits of the company.

“In Ireland, this complex and archaic ownership model has regularly been cited as an inhibiting factor in the development of the port. In short, no one will invest in a port whose ownership is unclear.”
The opportunity is not, however, all on one side, says the Wexford TD: “The decoupling of the two ports, and the transfer of Rosslare to Irish state ownership would free up both ports from this complex ownership model and allow investment in the ports.”

Mr Browne also highlighted the potential for growth in economic activity in West Wales’ closest trading neighbour: “Dublin Port is so busy that it is turning away business. Rosslare Port is in an ideal geographical location to attract shipping business and to take the pressure off of Dublin. Port. It, in turn, would act as an economic driver for the entire South East of Ireland.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb told us: Stephen: “The importance of the Fishguard – Rosslare ferry connection is unquestionable with 80% of all goods from Ireland passing through Welsh ports.
“However, the historic legal framework for the ports is outdated and does not give either side the freedom they need to develop and innovate. I can well understand why change is being sought at this time.

“I have met with the management on both sides of the Irish Sea to discuss Brexit planning and other aspects of the industry and will continue to do so.”

Ian Hampton, Chief People and Communications Officer, Stena Line said: “Stena Line hopes that by removing the historical legislation that governs the status of The Fishguard Rosslare Railways and Harbour Company it will enable Stena Line and the Irish Government to work closer together creating greater opportunity, such as the options for the long term development of both the respective ports.”

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