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County voices heard at the Senedd

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voices heardOVER 500 concerned Pembrokeshire people made the journey to Cardiff Bay to protest against the decision to close the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush Hospital and transfer services to Glangwili, Carmarthen.

Speaking to The Pembrokeshire Herald, Angela Newman of Johnston said: “It was a great turn out and it was good to be part of something so important. It is a pity that Mark Drakeford lacked the courage to meet with Chris Overton or come out and face us, the people who he claims to represent. “He was quick to post on Facebook that he had been pleased to meet with a delegation from Pembrokeshire. Two nurses, I heard.”

Angela went on to tell The Herald: “We could not believe that we were not allowed access to the Senedd building, a public building paid for out of our taxes, on a six in/six out basis.

“The security officer on the door just told us to write a letter to the head of building security.

“Our mood was very positive and there was no aggro, even though they could not have stopped us from forcing our way into the Senedd.

“We will not give this up.”

AMs meeting with baby unit plan opponents

ASSEMBLY members Joyce Watson and Rebecca Evans have held a meeting with health minister Mark Drakeford and Withybush Hospital campaigners. Hundreds of campaigners opposing changes to specialist baby care in West Wales protested at the Senedd on Wednesday.

Before the demonstration the Labour Mid and West Wales AMs convened a meeting between the minister and a group of campaigners.

Speaking after the hour and a half long private meeting (the minister was present for around 45 minutes; the meeting continued with a senior official), Mrs Watson said: “I am pleased that members of Withybush’s nursing staff, paediatricians and interested parties had a chance to speak to the minister at length, directly and candidly.

“We discussed issues including patient transport and travel costs; accommodation for parents when their baby has to stay in hospital; fast, safe onward transport for mothers; and the critical baby stabilisation ‘safety net’. The minister gave cast-iron assurances that all necessary arrangements would be in place before any service changes.

“I was concerned by a suggestion that, throughout this process, Hywel Dda has been reluctant to engage openly with front-line staff. That is not on, and Rebecca and I have requested an urgent meeting with the health board.”

Rebecca Evans AM added: “The Minister was able to provide reassurances that the Health Board has presented him with no proposal that A&E will be anything less than 24/7. He reiterated his view that Withybush Hospital has a secure and successful future, and that it is a ‘necessary’ hospital for the people of west Wales.”

AM Backs Protest

MID AND WEST AM, Simon Thomas welcomed campaigners aiming to keep services at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire outside the Senedd.

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas speaking to the estimated 200 protestors said: “I want to congratulate campaigners on their successful rally outside the Senedd. A clear message was sent to the Labour government that their plans are deeply unpopular. Not only that, their decision to remove consultant-led maternity services will put lives unneccesarily at risk.

“The loss of one service has a knock on impact on other services at the hospital. The management of Hywel Dda is not being honest wheyn they say that there won’t be any significant changes in the future to A&E. Plaid Cymru is asking the question how long can A&E last without 24 hour paediatric cover?”

“We are calling on the Labour Welsh Health Minister to rethink this decision. The Party of Wales is willing to work with all parties, and those of no party allegience to ensure the continuation of services at Withybush Hospital.

“The people of my Mid and West region deserve the same health care as those in large towns and cities. Plaid Cymru’s policy is to recruit 1000 doctors to bring Wales up to European standards and enable services to be as local as possible.”

Welsh Conservatives have long campaigned for core services at Withybush to remain unchanged

Shadow Minister for Health, Darren Millar AM, said:

“Welsh Labour’s endorsement of plans to downgrade Withybush is a catastrophic mistake.

“Expectant mothers must be confident in the knowledge that services are fit for purpose.

“That is now not the case and I wholeheartedly support those who have travelled from Pembrokeshire to make their voices heard.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies said:

“The voices of all those who have gathered at the Senedd must be respected and considered by Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour.

“Their plans to strip Withybush of core services are reckless, unnecessary, and dangerous.

“It will mean much longer travelling distances, and – in immediately life-threatening cases – could pose severe harm to mothers and babies.

“I stand with all those here today and I will continue to fight Labour’s damaging centralising NHS agenda.”

Assembly Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Angela Burns, said:

“Given the gravity of this dangerous and irresponsible decision, it is no surprise to see so many making their way to the Senedd steps.

“Every single voice should be heard by Labour ministers and every single view carefully considered.

“Previous promises not to downgrade hospitals have been left in tatters.

“Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour carry a heavy responsibility in pursuing this centralising agenda.

“Our fight will continue until this decision is reversed.”

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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