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Protestors: ‘Stop the downgrade!’

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the downgradeON THE WEEKEND that Hywel Dda LHB acknowledged that Accident and Emergency Services at Withybush Hospital were “under extreme pressure”, protesters gathered outside to protest about plans to downgrade maternity and paediatric provision at the Hospital.

The timing could scarcely have been worse for the Health Board to make such an announcement. With minor injury units closed in Tenby and Pembroke Dock within the last twelve months, ostensibly to ensure full A & E service provision at Withybush, the Health Board’s request to “Choose Well” and rely on GP’s and pharmacist fuelled the concerns of over 700 protesters gathered at the hospital gates.

“Only go to A&E if you really need it,” said a spokesperson for the health board.

“The public are therefore being urged to help reduce the pressures by ‘Choosing Well’ to ensure busy emergency services are available to those who most need them, but also that you get the right treatment, in the right place and in the shortest possible time.”

Hywel Dda LHB refused permission for protesters to stand in the hospital car park. Those protesting by the hospital gates expressed fears that the downgrading of key services at Withybush represents the thin edge of the wedge. The mood was angry but determined as speaker after speaker heralded the importance of Withybush’s services to Pembrokeshire and condemned the Local Health Board’s plans to downgrade services. Speaking after the rally, Paul Davies said “The protest outside the hospital on Saturday demonstrates the huge strength of feeling against closing the Special Care Baby Unit and the opposition to the potential downgrading of other services in Pembrokeshire. Local people are angry that life saving and core emergency services could be under threat. I want to congratulate residents for turning out on Saturday to show their support. It’s essential that in Pembrokeshire we all work together to ensure that vital life-saving services are retained in the County.”

Plaid Cymru’s Preseli candidate John Osmond, also joined protesters against service cuts at Withybush Hospital.

Speaking to the hundreds of local people, John said; “We won the fight to save Withybush hospital in 2007 and, together, we can win the fight again.

“When Withybush was last under threat, in the run-up to the 2007 Assembly election the main response I heard on the doorstep was that there was nothing we could do – the decision had already been made. But my message then was that we can make a difference if we stand up to be counted and use our vote. If there’s one thing politicians take note of, it’s the ballot box.”

Vicky Moller told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Storms at Newgale beach hurled a wall of pebbles from the beach to cover the A487 on January 5th. The road was closed causing a long cross-country diversion along single lane roads.

Alternatively a wider diversion meant a 24 mile journey to Haverfordwest and a 54 mile journey to Glangwili.

“This is just one example of the hold-ups that often happen in Pembrokeshire, due to traffic in the summer, storms in the winter, road works in between.

“Hywel Dda LHB’s proposal seems to be to leave areas at risk of storms, where tourists swell the population and industrial high risk zones with no-one able to perform emergency operations.”

Another protester said:“If this hospital closes wards we will have to travel many miles to get treatment. The cost to us in money we may live with but what is the cost of a child’s life”

As revealed by the Herald last week, in other Welsh maternity units that have been downgraded from consultant –led to midwife-led, an average of 8 women a week have to be transferred back to a consultant-led unit: in the case of expectant mums at Withybush Hospital this would mean a lengthy road journey by ambulance to West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen, over fifty minutes away.

Responding to the protest, a Hywel Dda spokesperson said

“ Our intention remains to retain a paediatric, gynaecology and obstetrics presence at Withybush Hospital; however this remains subject to further discussion with the scrutiny panel and clinicians.”

The Herald understands that a protest march is planned for the weekend of January 25, 2014.

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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