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£7.5m renal unit used as meeting room.

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renalTHE PEMBROKESHIRE HERALD can reveal this week that serious concerns have been raised at flagship projects at Withybush Hospital. 

The newly built Renal unit, funded by a £7.5m grant and scheduled to open earlier this year, is currently being used as a conference centre. A spokesperson for the Local Health Board, which built the unit under a commission from The Welsh Renal Network, told the Herald: “The new renal unit is a major investment at Withybush Hospital and contains all the latest technology expected in a modern renal dialysis unit. We are actively working with the Welsh Renal Network to ensure a provider is appointed and renal patients can benefit from these facilities as soon as possible.” The Board announced in April that negotiations with The Welsh Renal Network, responsible for appointing renal service providers, were in final stages with the contract award expected by the end of May 2014. The Pembrokeshire Herald has been assured by a member of the Renal unit’s project board that the unit will open, but a date has not been given. There is also considerable disquiet that the Board intends to salami-slice cancer services away from Withybush to Carmarthen, an impression given some impetus by the Board’s failure to appoint a replacement for Dr Anne Barnes MBE. The Pembrokeshire Herald can report that the Health Board failed to advertise for a replacement for Doctor Barnes until very recently, despite knowing of her intention to leave in January. We also understand that other clinical staff have declined to “fill the gap” left by her departure, leaving the future of cancer care at Withybush under question. Peter Milewski, retired consultant surgeon, told the Herald: “Health Board middle management are only just beginning to get a sense of urgency about the situation despite the long notice they’ve had. So it sounds as though a process of muddling through is just beginning to gather momentum, hopefully maintaining the service as it is. “It’s absolutely typical of the wretched health board to drag their feet while services and waiting times get worse and worse. Apparently there is someone interesting in starting in September, but what will happen between now and then is anyone’s guess.” Lyn Neville, who works for Pembrokeshire Cancer Support, said: “They have done this before when the last consultant left and it’s left them in a hole. They’ve just handed the job to Anne and told her to get on with it. “I had a letter to say that Hywel Dda is experiencing extreme recruitment difficulties. They don’t make the vacancies particularly attractive and threats to services aren’t helping attract people to the county either. They’ve set up an Oncology review group which won’t report until the end of the year, even though Anne is leaving in July. Who is going to cover Oncology when she goes? “There are just two consultants for nearly 250,000 people; they’re in a really big hole. People are genuinely fearful about what is going to happen when Anne leaves and the Health Board has done nothing to ease those fears”. Considerable anger has been caused by the discovery that funds donated for specific health care projects in Pembrokeshire have been diverted to a consolidated central fund. It seems that the generosity of Pembrokeshire charities is being used to fund developments in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in what is arguably a considerable breach of trust and confidence between the Board and local health care charities. It has been suggested by staff at Withybush that the new dialysis unit could be shared with the longpromised Cancer Day unit, which shows no sign of being planned other on a very vague basis and without firm commitment from the Board to its provision. The Herald understands that one charity is investigating its legal options in respect of money it has handed over to the Board towards the cost of providing a Cancer Day unit at Withybush Hospital. A spokesperson for the Health Board told us: “The university health board is totally committed to providing chemotherapy for patients in Pembrokeshire. We are currently undertaking a review of Oncology Services which about strengthening and modernising local services providing high quality, safe, effective treatment and care as close to patient’s home as possible. The CHC is participating in this review. “This process is not about reducing the service we offer but is about creating a more sustainable, high quality service. This may mean the way we deliver cancer services may change.” Paul Davies, AM for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “I have grown increasingly frustrated and angry with the delay in the opening of the new Renal unit at Withybush Hospital. To have a new building that appears to have been completed some time ago unused is a huge waste. “A number of constituents have contacted me to voice their concerns regarding this as understandably patients are very keen to use this new facility. “Pembrokeshire patients have in some cases had to continue to travel to Carmarthen for treatment, sometimes literally passing the new building that is lying idle. “I have raised this delay in the Senedd with the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM. “I have also contacted the Welsh Renal Clinical Network who are managing this scheme. Whilst I understand that the contract to build the unit is complex and includes work at Glangwili and Bronglais Hospitals, I question whether more could and should have been done to allow the new unit at Withybush Hospital to open far sooner.”

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Pembrokeshire cottage letting agency offers free holidays to NHS heroes

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PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED holiday letting agency St Brides Bay Cottages has teamed up with its property owners and Operation Recuperation to offer free holidays to frontline healthcare workers. The family-run firm has announced the scheme to say thank you to the healthcare heroes who are risking their lives to keep the UK safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

The generous initiative will see healthcare professionals enjoy a well-deserved break in picturesque St Davids, Solva, Newgale or Porthgain, after the crisis is over. The scheme is part of Operation Recuperation, a UK-wide campaign launched to gift future stays in beautiful places to frontline healthcare providers.

Sam Sibbald, manager of St Brides Bay Cottages, based in Solva, said: “This is our way of showing our dedicated healthcare workers that we appreciate everything they’re doing in such difficult circumstances.

“I saw first-hand the pressure the NHS is under, when my dad had a stay in hospital last year. I could tell how pushed they were on a normal day-to-day basis, let alone with having COVID-19 to deal with. Now my dad is at home, needing carers every day, and I can see, more than ever, how much we rely on the people who look after us.

“We’re taking part in Operation Recuperation thanks to the generosity of our cottage owners. By gifting stays to these dedicated workers, we’ll be helping them to recover from the fight against coronavirus.”

Several cottage owners, whose properties are let by St Brides Bay Cottages, have come forward to donate stays in their holiday homes.

Among them is Sheila Morgan, who together with her husband Chris, owns The Anchorage, a two-bedroom apartment in Solva. She said: “As a retired nurse with medical staff in the family, I can fully appreciate the strains and stresses all NHS staff are going through at present. Thank you all for your sterling work. Hopefully the peace, quiet and Pembrokeshire air will aid recuperation.”

Debbie and Patrick Bowie-Moore, the owners of five-bedroom holiday home Mount Pleasant, in Solva, said: “The healthcare workers have offered their all, and it’s our privilege to give a family – who may have been kept apart – the opportunity to stay in Mount Pleasant as a massive thank you.”

Simon Baker, who owns Cefn y Mor, a four-bedroom property in Solva, said: “We are backing the Operation Recuperation project because we have family members on the frontline of the NHS, and know what risks they are taking, and what effort they are putting into saving lives. Our only effort is to stay at home and avoid infection. A small price to pay.”

Jim and Maureen Dale, whose three-bedroom holiday home, May Cottage, is situated on a grade II-listed farm, near St Davids, said: “Rarely do we get an opportunity to say thank you to the staff at the NHS – we tend to take the service so much for granted. Now the chips are down and there they all are, on the frontline looking after us all. Thank you all at the NHS.”

David and Judith James, who are offering a free stay at their converted watermill, Melin Llanrhian, near Porthgain, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support Operation Recuperation as a very small thank you to everyone in the NHS who has worked so hard in such challenging circumstances.”

Operation Recuperation is collecting donations – in room nights and cash – to give free stays to frontline healthcare staff, once the virus restrictions have been lifted.

Rachel Sherwood, who launched Operation Recuperation, said: “A huge thank you to St Brides Bay Cottages for proudly supporting Operation Recuperation and to the cottage owners who have donated stays in this stunning part of Wales, despite very challenging times.

“Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a number of our frontline healthcare staff will be enjoying long clifftop walks, fresh seafood, lazy days on the beach and cosy evenings in sea-view cottages.”

To find out more about St Brides Bay Cottages and Operation Recuperation, visit: https://www.stbridesbaycottages.com/, email enquiries@stbridesbaycottages.com or call 01437 720027.

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Council pays out £2.5m in business grants to date

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has revealed that since Wednesday, 1st April, it has already paid out £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

The Authority’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, said Council staff had been working hard to make the Covid-19 business grants payable as soon as possible

Explained Councillor Miller: “Payments started on Wednesday this week for those who qualify for grants linked to the National Non-Domestic Ratings (NNDR) system. We have already paid out around £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

“Daily payment runs are being made in order that these can get into business bank accounts as soon as possible.

“We cannot unfortunately acknowledge receipt of applications but, once authorised, businesses will be emailed and the grant will be paid within two to three working days.”

Councillor Miller added: “If there are any issues with a grant application, or information is missing, a Council officer will be in touch to discuss the matter. A dedicated team has been set up to do this.”

For further business advice refer to the Council’s Business pages which can be accessed via the following link: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

This will enable access to the application form for the above grants, provide answers to frequently asked questions and links to further sources of advice through HMRC, Welsh Government, Department of Work and Pensions, Public Health Wales and other organisations.

For further enquiries not answered through the business pages, email: covid19@pembrokeshire.gov.uk and an officer will respond. Please view the business pages first.

For those who don’t qualify for the grants, Welsh Government will soon be making details available of how business can access other funding through an Economic Resilience Fund.

Details will be available on the Council’s business pages as soon as they are released by Welsh Government.

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Man issued with two COVID-19 fines in 24 hours as police thank those following new legislation

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A man has been issued with two fines in 24 hours for flouting Coronavirus legislation, as police thank those who are following the new rules.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers in Carmarthenshire stopped the 22-year-old from Llanelli twice for being out of the house without a reasonable excuse.

A report was made on April 1 that three men were breaching the COVID-19 legislation by gathering in Llanstephan. A woman who had attempted to film the men reported that they had stolen her phone and driven away.

Officers quickly linked the car to a suspect and traced it driving towards Carmarthen and then Llanelli, and a roads policing unit was directed to the area.

The car was stopped, and the two occupants – a 22-year-old from Llanelli, and a 18-year-old from Carmarthen – were arrested on suspicion of theft. They were also both issued with tickets for COVID-19 offences.

T/Chief Inspector Tom Sharville said: “We are taking the new legislation seriously, and would like to thank the majority of people who are staying home to keep others safe.

“The measures are difficult to adapt to, but it is important that we stay at home to save lives.

“However, there is a minority out there who are under the impression the legislation does not apply to them, and are flouting the law.

“This was the second fine one of these men was issued with in 24 hours, after he showed a clear disregard for all guidelines.”

The men were arrested on suspicion of theft of a mobile phone, and were released under investigation pending further enquiries.

For information about the COVID-19 legislation, and answers to many frequently asked questions, visit https://bit.ly/DPPCovid19

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