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Councillor’s call to put Health Board into special measures will be debated

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MEMBERS of Pembrokeshire County Council have decided that they will debate if they should recommend to the Welsh Government that Hywel Dda University Health Board should be put into special measures in a committee hearing.

One councillor, Michael Williams, said he wished that the Council could subpoena members of Hywel Dda health board to attend a debate to give them “a really good grilling” in regards to their hospital shake up plans.

The Health Board plan to close the A&E in Haverfordwest, downgrade Withybush Hospital and build a new centralised hospital between Narberth and Whitland has been highly controversial.

The matter has been the subject of protests, demonstrations and a petition signed by nearly half the residents of Pembrokeshire being delivered to the Welsh Government earlier this year.

The Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee will now debate the matter which was sparked by a Notice of Motion submitted by Pembroke Dock councillor, Paul Dowson.

During the debate at Full Council, Cllr Jon Havery seemed to be Cllr Dowson’s biggest supporter over the issue. He said: “We need to look at the spirit in which this has been made. We represent the people. We are elected, the health board is not. I do not think that for one minute that if we recommended that the Health Board be put into special measures that the Welsh Government would do it; but what it would send out would be a strong signal to the residents of Pembrokeshire, whom we represent, that we are not happy with the proposals with Withybush at the moment”

He added: “It’s clear that the downgrading and the loss of A&E are very high in the public’s hearts and mind-sets. What more can the people do? The people have petitioned, campaigned and protested and they are still being ignored. We should be supporting this motion!”

There was loud clapping from the public gallery when Cllr Harvey concluded by saying: “We should be showing to the people of Pembrokeshire that we are not happy with the health board!”

Cllr Jon Harvey said: “This is a very important notice of motion so far as I am concerned. We have members of the public in the gallery here who have come to listen to this. I would suggest that we should be debating this in some shape or form. It is important that Cllr Dowson is allowed to explain the rationale behind his Notice of Motion”

Cllr Dowson spoke next, saying: “Yes, as Cllr Harvey said this is a very important issue in Pembrokeshire – I do not think it can just be passed off to a committee without being debated. It’s an unusual Notice of Motion as we have no authority over the health board, it’s just asking for a recommendation. I feel that Full Council should debate it really.”

It was Cllr Aden Arthur Brinn who questioned if the Local Authority had the remit to carry out the Notice of Motion. Miss Claire Jones, the Monitoring Officer, agreed that the Council did have the authority to make a recommendation to the Health Minister and this possibly could be heard at a future committee meeting

Cllr Dowson replied saying that he thought that was problematic.

He said: “The public have been to Hywel Dda themselves and made their thoughts clear and the board haven’t listened. We are really the only recommending authority that they can go to… so they have to come to us

Cllr Samuel Kurtz said: “I fully appreciate the notice of motion and the concern that this chamber has with Health Provision in west Wales. I just want to make the chamber aware that there is currently one health board under special measures with the Welsh Government – that’s Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board – and it’s performance has decreased under the Welsh Assembly. The former Health Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford has just taken over as First Minister. He was the one himself who started moving services away from Withybush Hospital. I fully understand the need for scrutiny and a voice for Pembrokeshire people. 45,000 people did sign that petition supporting A&E in Withybush. But I am not sure that this is the best way to go ahead with the Welsh Assembly’s current outset on health provision in Wales.

Cllr Simon Hancock was concerned that the matter, which he admitted was important, was being discussed ‘at the end of a very long day’ and he was concerned about a lack of documents submitted by Cllr Dowson.
He criticised Cllr Dowson saying: “This is, I fear, an exercise in popular-ism.”

He went on to say that the person to escalate intervention should be the Cabinet Secretary, not any council.

However, following discussions the Notice of Motion was carried to committee.

Farcical scenes: The Council Chamber last Friday

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Health volunteers thanked for incredible support

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THERE’S no more fitting time than National Volunteering Week to say thank you to all of the volunteers within Hywel Dda University Health Board, management have said in a press release.

‘Volunteering for Health’ is the Hywel Dda UHB’s volunteer service and has covered the three counties of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire for the past 11 years.

During this period, volunteers have carried out 376,000 hours of volunteering and in 2019 carried out 56,000 hours.

At the start of the year prior to COVID, 400 registered volunteers were providing a range of services to support patients and improve their experience whilst in hospitals, these include; library trolley service, shop trolley service, pharmacy runners, meet and greet, patient befrienders, gardeners and many other roles.

Lisa Gostling, Director of Workforce and OD said: “Volunteers are an integral part of our service and it’s hard to think that only seven months ago we celebrated the 10th anniversary of volunteering within Hywel Dda together at Bronwydd Hall.

“It’s important at this moment in time to recognise that some of our long standing volunteers can’t be with us and we look forward to welcoming you back to the organisation soon.

“And also to recognise those volunteers who have changed what they do to support our patients during these particularly difficult times.

“So I want to just say thank you. Thank you for your commitment, your generosity and your kindness. I look forward to seeing you all soon. Take care and stay safe.”

David Fretwell. Volunteering for Health Manager, added his thanks for the overwhelming response from volunteers old and new to an unprecedented situation: “This year has been unprecedented for the volunteer service with the onset of the COVID pandemic and has dramatically affected the way we have involved volunteers.

“We had an amazing response from the community wishing to help us through volunteering with over 600 offers of support.

“To help manage the numbers of people offering to help we set up a ‘Volunteer Pool’ and are extremely mindful where we can place volunteers for their safety.

“We have now deployed volunteers to support the health board’s transport department as drivers; we also have gardeners, virtual volunteers and drivers delivering food parcels from food banks to some of our most vulnerable patients in the community.

“We appreciate the fantastic support you have provided prior to COVID and through the pandemic. Thank you for your incredible support.”

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Inflatable kayak group rescued by the Coastguard

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A GROUP of people in an inflatable kayak had to be rescued by the Coastguard on Saturday (May 30) evening.

HM Coastguard Dale said they were “very lucky people”.

They had been exploring to the north of Skomer Island when they got caught in the tidal race of Jack Sound and ended up off Gateholm.

A passing Dale sailing vessel helped them to the Little and Broad Haven Lifeboat team before they were transferred to Angle RNLI to navigate Jack Sound.

The casualties were received by HM Coastguard Dale at Martin’s Haven and given safety advice.

The group had no lifejackets on and were not wearing wetsuits, despite the cold water.

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Hart defends a tweet police boss says is incorrect

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WELSH Secretary Simon Hart has defended a tweet accused of being incorrect by a chief constable.

The MP for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire told The Herald that he had simply been quoting Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable Mark Collins when he said people in Wales were allowed to travel up to 15 miles to exercise.

Mr Collins later said people should not drive to take exercise.

Hart told MPs he was “quite surprised” to hear Mr Collins’ response.

Welsh Government guidelines on lockdown restrictions say “exercise should be undertaken locally – as close as possible to the home”.

They continue: “In general this should not involve people driving to a location away from home for this purpose.”

Last Friday Mr Hart tweeted: “Fascinating to hear from Wales’ four police chiefs today, and the commissioners too, especially on what’s permissible under lockdown.

“Consensus was that travelling 10-15 miles from home to fish, play golf, surf or exercise is fine – subject to all other distancing requirements”.

However responding to questions from MPs on Thursday, Mr Hart said “the reference to 10 to 15 miles to travel to play golf or fish was actually Chief Constable Mark Collins’ own words – not mine – and not disputed by anybody on that call”.

He told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that he was “quite surprised” to then hear that the comment he tweeted was “interpreted as being incorrect”.

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