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Listen to us or ‘kids will die’

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swatTHE SAVE WITHYBUSHT ACTION  TEAM (SWAT) descended on Cardiff in full force this week in the continued campaign to save our fantastic local hospital. 

Ten coaches and over a 1000 people arrived at the Senedd in our capital city on a gloriously sun drenched summer’s day. The desperate fight to keep essential services and funding at Withybush Hospital has been further accentuated after figures last week from The Nuffield Trust predicted demand on the NHS will outstrip the money it receives by 2025, and that the NHS in Wales is facing a £2.5bn funding gap over the next 10 years. In the short term, the Nuffield Trust said the NHS faced a challenging funding gap of £200 million in just the next two years. On board the coaches were many residents of Pembrokeshire who have had direct experience of how the hospital has helped them, and featured in their lives, and there were many parents of children travelling to Cardiff that demanded their voice be heard. One of the protesters was a Pembrokeshire mother who lost more than half her blood when the birth of her daughter went terribly wrong. Emily Holden thought she would never see her family again as Withybush doctors raced to save her life. She explained how she had ‘pushed’ when she shouldn’t have which resulted in severe bleeding, losing two and a half litres of blood in the process. Her Husband Christian was left holding the newborn baby as his wife faced potential death. She explained how she felt as all this was going on: “At that time I calmed down and accepted I was going to go. I was becoming more non-responsive. I was aware things were bad but I was slowing down and I had gone grey”. Emily ‘was fading away’ but Withybush and its facilities, medics and staff saved her life. At the protest, Ruth Howells, a retired consultant gynaecologist who worked at Withybush Hospital, addressed the crowd about the problems with the Health Board’s plans, saying: “I’m worried about the journey times in an emergency. No one is even talking about the extra travel costs for the patients and their f a m i l i e s . It is a disastrous move to c l o s e Withybush services. I can’t understand how the people who have made these plans can countenance between a 1 and 2 hour journey time for people who may be in dire emergencies.”

A DOCTOR’S VIEW 

Local Paediatrician, Gustavo Falco, said: “We need a 24 hour paediatric service in Pembrokeshire because of the geography. Travelling is difficult, especially in an emergency from the western coast to Carmarthen. It’s not on. If a child has a cardiac arrest there is no way that child is going to be alive by the time they get to Carmarthen.”

POLITICIANS SUPPORT THE PROTEST 

Liberal Democrat, Eluned Parrott AM, told the protesters and reporters that the lack of ambulances in Wales is ‘disgusting’, and ‘it’s an issue that affects everyone in Wales’. Simon Hart, MP for Pembrokeshire South, told The Herald that he had seen the pictures of the protest online and said it was a ‘great effort by Pembrokeshire people to unite and have their voices heard’. He went on to question Mark Drakeford’s tenure, saying ‘he must be thick skinned not to question his own judgement on this issue, and are thousands of Pembrokeshire people wrong and just one Minister only is right?’ He further suggested that Mr Drakeford’s own party did not really support him on this issue and that the Minister should take a good look in the mirror and try and convince himself that it is ‘ok’. This viewpoint seemed to be supported by Delyth Evans, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for South Pembrokeshire, who told The Herald: “After today’s demonstration there can be no doubt in the minds of the Welsh Government about the strength of feeling in Pembrokeshire about the proposed changes at Withybush. There is only one way to alleviate people’s legitimate concerns about the future of their local health services. The Minister must make an unequivocal statement that no changes will be implemented until adequate emergency transport is in place, and that there will be no further reduction in essential services at Withybush, whatsoever. We cannot accept a gradual reduction of our local health service by stealth. There has to be a commitment to maintain a fully functioning hospital for the people of Pembrokeshire.” Another Labour politician, Derek Vaughan MEP, refused to comment saying it was a matter for the Welsh Government Minister. However, Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, Rebecca Evans stated: “To have such a big turn-out at the Senedd shows just how passionately people in Pembrokeshire care about their hospital. That message came over loud and clear. Everyone is agreed that the over-riding concern has to be about the safety and sustainability of health services. Whilst we cannot ignore the requirement of the Wales Deanery and the Royal Colleges, I have been clear all along that there must be no change until the ‘safety net’ is fully in place – including the provisions to address the significant transport challenges.” Paul Miller, Parliamentary candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, made his position clear in relation to The Welsh Minister, saying to The Herald: “The people of Pembrokeshire showed on Wednesday just how strongly they feel here about the proposed changes to our hospital. People are rightly concerned that because of our geography they will not be able to access centralised services in an emergency and the Minister must pledge today, not to allow Hywel Dda to implement any changes whatever, unless he is 100% satisfied that adequate emergency transport is available. While I do accept, that in some instances patient outcomes can be improved when services are centralised, local hospitals will always remain the first port of call in an Emergency. We cannot accept a gradual reduction of our local services by stealth and Withybush Hospital must always remain a fully functioning District General Hospital. I have made clear to the Minister, on both occasions when we have met this year, that I will vigorously oppose any moves which reduce the current, 24/7 A&E cover at Withybush General Hospital and I will never accept that any less than a 24 hour service is safe for the residents of Pembrokeshire”.

QUESTIONS TO THE HEALTH MINISTER  

The Herald asked Mark Drakeford, Health Minister, and his office for a comment regarding the protest to which they simply responded by saying: “We have no comment – it is a matter for the Health Board.” However, a statement was released by the Minister to the protesting crowd which read: “Firstly, let me make it clear that provision of high quality safe maternity services in Wales is a priority for the Welsh Government. The strategic vision for maternity services in Wales published September 2011 states the foundations for health and well being start in pregnancy. The months before and after birth are crucial to the life chances of the mother. We know the health and happiness of future generations can be enhanced with the provision of high quality maternity services and pregnancy is a powerful motivator for change. Pregnancy impacts on health and well being on individuals and communities. It is vitally important that efforts to ensure mother and child are safe and healthy well before birth. The strategic vision sets out the results we want for women and their babies through pregnancy and childbirth as well as our expectations of NHS Wales in delivering maternity services that make a real difference to families in Wales. For every mother wherever they live and in whatever circumstances, pregnancy and childbirth will be a safe and positive experience so a family can begin parenting feeling confident, capable and well supported of giving their child a secure start in life. Continuous improvements are being made to maternity services.” Local Assembly Member Paul Davies joined the crowds outside the Senedd to voice concerns over threats to services at Withybush hospital. He said: “Once again, the people of Pembrokeshire have come to the Assembly to send their message loud and clear. We in Pembrokeshire already have to travel further afield for specialist treatment; forcing us to travel further afield for lifesaving care and emergency services, will put lives at risk. I’m appalled that the Welsh Government and the local health board have decided to proceed with these catastrophic plans. I’m pleased that so many people made the trip to Cardiff – showing that we will not go down without a fight. I’m thankful that they have taken the time to travel down from Pembrokeshire. For my part, I will keep raising this issue in the Assembly Chamber with the Minister at every opportunity and I will continue to lobby to reverse these decisions. The message is clear: Services at Withybush hospital must stay put!”

SWAT ORGANISER SPEAKS OUT 

Chris Overton, a consultant at Withybush and leading the SWAT protest, was asked about how the protest could make a difference: “We have just got to keep trying. There is no point just sitting back and letting them make these disastrous services changes. We need to have the services they are trying to take away, kept in Pembrokeshire because otherwise people will die. From the 6th August there will be no difficult deliveries (at Withybush). So instead of 1300 deliveries there will be 100. 1200 will have to go to Llangwilly. There are significant problems getting there quickly and lives are at risk, particularly small babies.” He was challenged with the Health Minister’s assertion that services have to be centralised, to which he responded, “We don’t disagree and we think services should be centralised in Withybush, because it makes perfect sense. You have to take everything in the round. You have to include the ABMU Health Board as well, and the three logical centres would be, Morriston South, Bronglais and Withybush. The protest ends today, then there is the judicial review next week and we are very hopeful. we have a very good chance, good witness statements, a good argument and we are hoping we are going to win.” On the subject of centralisation, Mark Drakeford’s view seems to be diametrically opposed to that of NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, who has said that the NHS must ‘end mass centralisation and instead expand its local services to treat people in their own communities’. Liberal Democrat Eluned Parrott AM told the crowd about the lack of ambulances available; stating that it’s an issue that is affecting everyone in Pembrokeshire. She made clear that this was, ‘politically driven and NOT clinically driven.’ Pembrokeshire Councillor David Lloyd addressed the crowd and spoke gravely of the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge in 1970, which killed four workmen, reminding the protesters that in fact there was no hospital within Pembrokeshire and therefore any victims had to be driven to Carmarthen. He continued by saying that the coroner who dealt with the workmen’s death stated that carrying critical ill people long distances had resulted in deaths.

MATERNITY ‘A HIGH PRIORITY’ SAYS WAG 

A statement was released, at the protest, from the Welsh Government who said: “Maternity is a high priority within the Welsh Government. Continuous improvements are being made to maternity services within Pembrokeshire’. This was met with derision from the crowd who began to chant ‘Shame’, and, ‘Drakeford out!’ William Powell, Regional Minister, continued to address the crowd, claiming that the Welsh Government are in fact looking into the judicial review and that he is personally dealing with it. He argued that, ‘Clinical safety is the key!’ Pembrokeshire Alliance leader, Bob Kilmister, told The Herald: “The Pembrokeshire Alliance fully supports the protestors who went to the Senedd today to protest over the proposed service cuts at Withybush hospital. I hope Welsh Government takes notice of the massive concern shown by the people of Pembrokeshire about these cuts to our health service. It is extremely disappointing that the Health Minister refused to talk to SWAT representatives and I deplore this kind of arrogance. Politicians should front up and face the public and not hide away in meetings.”

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The Pembrokeshire man on the Titanic

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ON the morning of April 15 1912, in the North Atlantic some 450-miles south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic slowly slid beneath the sea just two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.

Stories from that night are famous, from the lookouts misplacing their binoculars to the ship’s band playing even as the sea washed over their feet, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special place in the public consciousness and continues to grab our attention some 109 years after the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank.

Over 1500 people lost their lives in the biggest maritime naval disaster at that point.

Among the dead were American and British millionaires, White Star Line employees and countless anonymous immigrants from across Europe who were all seeking a better life in America.

908 crew were on board the Titanic when it left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage, one of the crew was a man called Charles Essex Edwards, 38, who sometimes gave himself the first name of ‘Clement’.

Charles was born in 1862 to John and Harriet Edwards of St. Martin’s Place, Haverfordwest.

He worked as a carpenter as a 19-year-old man and would end up moving out of Pembrokeshire and going to sea.  By the time he married a lady called Lavinia Ann Poulter, from Llanstadwell, in May 1892 he was living in Newport.

Lavinia, a Pembrokeshire woman herself, was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Poulter who lived on Lawrenny Terrace in Neyland.

By 1895, Lavinia had returned to Pembrokeshire following the death of her mother. Charles and Lavinia’s marriage suffered but Charles would continue visiting Lavinia and stayed at his father-in-law’s house when he was on shore leave.

Although still married in the eyes of the law, Charles and Lavinia were basically separated by 1901.

Charles signed on to work on the brand new RMS Titanic after it had completed its sea trials in Belfast Lough, he gave his address as 7 Brunswick Square, Southampton. He worked on the Titanic as an assistant pantry-man steward who earned a monthly wage of £3 15s on his previous ship the SS Zeeland.

SS Zeeland: The ship Charles worked on before the Titanic

When RMS Titanic left Southampton a massive crowd had gathered to see the newest addition to the White Star Line fleet depart. Charles Edwards was there. He was there when the ship picked up more passengers at Cherbourg and Cobh.

He would’ve been working during the day, his job entailed keeping the ship’s pantries stocked with food and wine, a vital job on a ship with such a high-class passenger list as the Titanic.

He was, more than likely, sleeping when Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg in the ship’s path at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14. He would’ve been woken by the noise of metal on ice and the ship shuddering as it was torn open on the starboard side.

As the ‘unsinkable’ ship took on water Charles, as a White Star Line employee, would’ve been given the unenviable task of waking up passengers, informing them of what happened and getting them to put on their lifejackets.

Once the scale of the situation on the Titanic became apparent, the command structure effectively disintegrated.

Captain Edward Smith would’ve cut a forlorn figure as he wandered around near the wheelhouse and his last words to his crew, according to reports at the time were:

“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you.

“You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

This would’ve been around 2:10am, at that point Charles would’ve faced a literal up-hill battle with male members of the crew only having a 24% chance of survival and many people gathering ‘like bees’ on the stern of the stricken liner which, experts say, raised to a 12 degree angle.

The Pantryman-stewards from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic

Many male crew members elected to stay at their posts as, according to Victorian culture it was better for men to die than to live and be perceived a coward, so the lights of the ship remained on until about 2:18am, just two minutes before Titanic broke apart and began its journey to its final resting place some 12,000ft below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But now you know there was a man named Charles Edwards who was born in Haverfordwest and who died when the Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified and we don’t even have a picture of him.

When news of the disaster broke, The Pembroke County Guardian described the tragedy as ‘one of the most appalling calamities in the long history of shipwreck’.

Four men from Maenclochog, it was later revealed, had a lucky escape as their plans to emigrate that April on the Titanic were thwarted by one of their number being unable to travel, so the group decided to wait for their friend. That decision saved their lives.

Pembrokeshire responded to the sinking by raising money for the Titanic Relief Fund, Pembroke Dock raised £12 2s 0d through a collection at the Royal Dockyard and, in Haverfordwest, Sidney White, who would later go on to own The Palace Cinema, hosted benefit performances to packed houses which raised £5 15s.

Lavinia, after a legal battle with Charles’ brother William, was given £192 in compensation for Charles’ death and went on to look after her father at Railway Terrace, Neyland until he passed away.

Lavinia went on to move to Middlesex where she lived until 1934. She left her estate to her chauffeur.

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Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

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A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week.

Derek Lister, 72, of Marloes is accused of making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared before the bench, on Tuesday (Apr 13).

Lister was represented by Redkite Solicitors.

The court heard that between June 2009 and November 2019 in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, Lister allegedly created 3 indecent category A images of a child, 14 indecent category B images of a child and 152 indecent category C images of a child.

He will now appear at Swansea Crown Court on May 11 at 10am for the next hearing after the local court declined jurisdiction.

Lister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Derek Lister: Accused of making child abuse images
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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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