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What next for Withybush?

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whats nextTHURSDAY, November 21 saw a packed Picton Centre host a public meeting regarding the future of Withybush Hospital.

Members of Save Withybush Action Team (SWAT) and the Facebook group Save Essential Services at Withybush and other worried Pembrokeshire residents jammed into the Centre to discuss their concerns about the future of Withybush General Hospital.

Consultant Obstetrician Chris Overton told the meeting:

“I’ve been doing this for nine years: I stood outside Withybush on December 27, 2004 handing out leaflets warning you that they were going to take away your services.

“We’re planning to have demonstrations every Saturday at 11am outside the hospital from January 4 because we want them to know we are still here, we want them to know we still care and we want them to know we’re not going to go away. We want a big event every Saturday all the way through January, February, March – as long as it takes.

He also spoke about the possibilities of what might happen if Withybush was to close and added: “If they close us down, if they transfer services to Glangwilli, If Glangwilli can’t cope there is a scenario where a woman might go into labour and get sent to other hospitals where they might be full.

County councillor speaks 

Cllr David Howlett was the only County Councillor to attend the meeting. He said:

“Earlier in the week we tabled an urgent question to the health minister but that had to be agreed by the presiding officer. Unfortunately the presiding officer for the national assembly of Wales declined that, which we thought was terrible.

“The Welsh Conservative group have a 60 minute debate next week (Wednesday 27, 4pm) they’ve chosen the topic of Withybush hospital and the Welsh minister will have to respond and they will give indication of what is going to happen.”

No confidence in Health Board 

The meeting was told that a number of services are threatened with closure but nothing has been decided yet. The meeting considered the possible scenarios if services were cut as feared. One member discussed the possibility of going to the Welsh Assembly when they are meeting the health minister to get the best impact and to make the AM’s sit up and take note of what they are doing.

Another member proposed a vote of no confidence in the chief executive and the board of the health authority. This motion was met with applause and was unanimously carried.

Public anger

While many members of the public gave heart-warming stories about their current situations, each highlighting a number of problems that would come to fruition should some services at Withybush close, others at the meeting expressed anger at the Health Board’s plans. Chris Overton told the meeting:

“The Health Board has been told it cannot make any announcements with regards to where services are going. A final decision will be made by the health minister on Tuesday January 21.

“We investigated the possibility of issuing proceedings in January of this year when the Health Board’s plans first became public. We now have a new opportunity because the health minister has made an announcement on September 24 and he’s referred it back to the health board. We must have that judicial review permission request in by December 24.

“There is only one way for the people of Pembrokeshire and that is to demand Withybush stays open as a fully functioning hospital.

“The Health Board senior management have been playing their cards very close to their chest and if it hadn’t been for the local press revealing what they are planning I doubt that we would be having this discussion.

“We all need to consider the safety of the people of Pembrokeshire.

“I have been begging our GPs to contact the Welsh government and the BMA secretary. If you can get your GP behind this campaign, we’ve got a significant chance of success”.

From the floor, it was suggested:

“We could look at when the Welsh Assembly are meeting with the health minister when we’ve got the most impact as many AM’s as possible making sure we have a demonstration in Cardiff when we’ve got the biggest impact towards the AM’s.”

Another member of the public asked:

“Can I point out that Mark Drakeford tweeted on Tuesday to the effect that the Welsh NHS has got to change and Hywel Dda is no exception? That rather suggests it doesn’t matter what we do he’s already made his mind up.”

Threat to tourism

Thinking about Pembrokeshire’s status as a tourist destination, considerable unease was also expressed at the potential loss of services:

“It’s very easy to make decisions which don’t affect you in any way shape or form.

“In the time I’ve been in Pembrokeshire there have been an awful lot of industrial accidents, none of these large industrial accidents produced huge amounts of casualties. The powers that be should realise that with what we have in the Haven, not to mention the thousands of people who come here in the summer, where roads are totally inadequate for that number of people if there is an emergency. We want an A & E service that can cope with accidents on an industrial scale.

“Pembrokeshire relies heavily on tourism. No one is going to come here because, quite simply put, it’s too dangerous to come to Pembrokeshire.”

John Osmond stood in the 2007 election for Plaid Cymru:

“I have a personal experience of how valuable Withybush is as during that campaign I was fishing off the rock at Martins Haven and slipped and dislocated my elbow and I wouldn’t have wanted to go much further than Haverfordwest on that occasion.

“We’re very fortunate in this campaign to have it lead by the consultants. This Mr Purt (the Health Board’s Chief Executive) is a man in a grey suit. A man or a woman in a white suit is worth a hundred men in grey suits.”

The Pembrokeshire Herald invited Hywel Dda LHB to comment on specific issues raised by the meeting and by the leaflet we reported upon last week. A spokesperson from the Health Board said:
“The health board was instructed by the Health Minister in September to clarify the delivery model for obstetric and paediatric services that would be provided to support a Level 2 neo-natal unit before a final Ministerial decision is made in relation to newborn services.

“The health board continues to discuss potential service models with staff and so meetings are taking place at a hospital, county and health board-wide level.

“We intend to respond to Welsh Government in the next few weeks.

“A&E remains open 24/7 at Withybush Hospital and no decision has been taken to reduce these hours of service.”

“A gap of trust”

Simon Hart MP spoke to The Pembrokeshire Herald:

“I am enormously frustrated by the Local Health Board. It seems to have enormous difficulty communicating with and generating trust among either members of its staff or the Pembrokeshire public.

“Every time an announcement is due it is trailed by rumour and counter-rumour. Months of uncertainty seem to be followed by baffling decisions that are hard to understand.

“I speak often to members of Hywel Dda staff who express their deep personal concerns about the future while the rumour mill does its work

“Staff members are doing a difficult job in impossible circumstances. There is a real gap of trust and it is up to the Health Board to sort that out; it needs to stop being secretive and start being open and transparent, not only with its employees but also with Pembrokeshire.”

 

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Charity

RSPCA reveal 160 animal cruelty reports in Pembrokeshire

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THE LATEST figures from RSPCA Cymru reveal a troubling increase in animal cruelty cases, with 160 incidents reported in Pembrokeshire alone this year. This alarming statistic is part of a broader surge in cruelty reports across Wales, where 3,059 cases have been recorded from January to June 2024.

Pembrokeshire’s figures contribute to a national concern, as RSPCA Cymru braces for a busy summer following a 2% rise in cruelty reports across England and Wales. Last year, intentional harm and beatings of animals rose sharply during the summer months, and this year seems poised to follow the same distressing trend.

The cruelty figures in Pembrokeshire place it among the top counties in Wales for reported abuse. Rhondda Cynon Taf leads with 266 reports, followed by Cardiff with 255, Swansea with 237, Carmarthenshire with 189, and Caerphilly with 186.

Karen Colman, head of the RSPCA welfare oversight team, highlighted the concerning rise in cruelty reports: “Sadly, animal cruelty reports are on the rise this year – and across Wales, we’ve seen more than 3,000 animal cruelty reports already this year.”

One particularly disturbing case in Pembrokeshire involved a hedgehog found with an air gun injury in Haverfordwest. Ginny Batt, who runs the Pembrokeshire Hogspital, responded to a call about the injured animal. The hedgehog, wandering during the day, was found with a pellet wound near its neck and shoulder. Despite efforts to save it, the animal had to be euthanised due to the severity of its injuries.

Batt said, “The pellet missed his head and caught the shoulder. There was no bone injury, but the impact had dislocated his shoulder.”

In response to the rising cruelty cases, the RSPCA has launched its ‘No Animal Deserves Cruelty’ summer appeal. The charity is seeking public support to fund rescue operations and care for abused animals during the peak summer period.

“Summer is a really challenging time for us – and we’re braced for another busy season on the frontline, but we cannot do this alone,” added Colman.

The RSPCA is also advocating for tighter controls and better education regarding air guns. The organisation calls for mandatory basic safety training for anyone purchasing an air gun to prevent wildlife from being targeted.

Among the many animals rescued from cruelty, Loki’s story stands out. The puppy was found covered in bruises and fractures, but after being rescued and rehabilitated by the RSPCA, he now lives happily in a new home. RSPCA Inspector Zoe Ballard, who rescued Loki, recently reunited with the transformed dog, expressing her joy: “Seeing him today, there is a twinkle in his eye. So different from that little puppy I met that first day.”

As the RSPCA marks its 200th anniversary, it underscores the ongoing need for vigilance and support to combat animal cruelty. The charity’s summer appeal aims to raise the necessary funds to rescue and rehabilitate animals facing abuse.

For more information on the RSPCA’s No Animal Deserves Cruelty Appeal, visit the charity’s website.

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Crime

Woman gets payout after boss coughs in her face

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Kevin Davies, the father of British Lions and Wales rugby star Gareth Davies, has been ordered to pay more than £26,000 to a female employee for deliberately coughing in her face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A tribunal heard that Davies, 62, aimed to “ridicule and intimidate” the woman, who had expressed concerns over her health due to psoriatic arthritis and an autoimmune condition. The incident occurred in the days leading up to the first lockdown in March 2020 at Cawdor Cars, a business where Davies holds significant involvement.

The employment tribunal, presided over by Judge Tobias Vincent Ryan, heard that the woman had requested colleagues to maintain social distance, in line with official recommendations, due to her vulnerable health status. However, Davies mocked her concerns, intentionally coughing in her direction while commenting that she was “being ridiculous.”

The tribunal was informed that the woman, employed at Cawdor Cars between 2017 and 2020, was earning £11 per hour. In addition to car sales, Cawdor Cars has a property rental section where she worked as a property manager overseeing a portfolio including hotels and housing developments.

Judge Ryan condemned Davies’ actions as “gross behaviour,” noting that other members of the firm’s management team, who witnessed the incident, gave evidence that was perceived as defensive and not entirely straightforward. The woman vehemently complained about the incident and resigned from the business in Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion, less than three months later.

Judge Ryan stated, “She resigned at least in part because she was victimised; this was a major and significant factor in her decision. She felt that she was being eased out partly because of her complaints. She was correct.”

The tribunal awarded the woman £26,438.84 in total compensation. This includes £18,000 for injury to feelings, £3,841.94 for unfair dismissal, and £4,596.90 in accumulated interest. Cawdor Cars has been ordered to pay the bulk of the damages, with Davies personally liable for the remainder.

Following the hearing, the woman described the impact of Davies’ conduct on her mental health, stating, “I was left a nervous wreck. He knew of my medical condition and that I had no immune protection because of the medication I had to take, and he deliberately coughed in my face. I was shaking. I’m not a silly, fluffy person; I’ve had to put up with a lot in my life, but it really got me.”

This ruling highlights the seriousness with which the tribunal viewed the deliberate intimidation and ridicule of an employee during the pandemic, particularly one with known health vulnerabilities.

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Crime

Ex-mayor gets suspended sentence for child images offences

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A FORMER mayor of Pembroke Dock has been given a suspended jail sentence for the possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

Terry Judkins, 55, from Bush Street, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court after he admitted the charges.

Judkins pleaded guilty to two offences involving Category C images and possessing a prohibited image of a child between September 2018 and August 2021.

He also admitted making and distributing Category A images of the children, Category A being the most serious classification of indecent images.

The court was informed that 11 unique images had been duplicated numerous times across two digital devices and that 10 of the images in question were of a 17-year old known to Judkins.

Judkin’s defence barrister, David Maunder, told told the court the majority of the imagery involving the 17-year old was “enthusiastically consensual”.

It is a criminal offence to share indecent images of a person under the age of 18.

The other image involved teenage boys aged between 10 and 13 years.

Mr Maunder told the judge that the court was “not dealing with evidence of someone who is a committed pedophile”, however, Judkins had “dipped his toe into this kind of behavior, which he deeply regrets now”.

He added that the Judkins was of “positive good character” and he had subsequently suffered “shame and embarrassment” as a result of the offences.

Judge Catherine Richards informed Judkins that the nature of his case stood in “contrast with the positive reputation you gained”.

She continued that there “was no evidence” that there was large amounts of material associated with young boys other than the the Category A images of the 10-13 year old boys that Judkins possessed.

Richards said Judkins had distributed two images of a 17-year-old and stated that the law was “in place to protect young people.”

Judkins was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, deciding to give a Judkins a suspended sentence for two years for distributing indecent images.

The former mayor was also given a further six-month sentence, suspended two years, for making indecent images.

Both of the the devices used by Judkins, a computer and a mobile phone are now subject to forfeiture and destruction orders.

Judkins will also be required to attend a programme for people with convictions for downloading indecent images of children and will have his name added to the sex offenders register for 10 years.

He will return to court at a later date to confirm whether he will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

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