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Red line on hospital safety crossed

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red linePLAID CYMRU Preseli candidate John Osmond has called on Joyce Watson, Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, to use her vote in the National Assembly to halt the downgrading of Withybush Hospital.

“The Labour government in Cardiff has no majority for moving consultant-led maternity services from Withybush to Glangwili in Carmarthen, as announced by Health Minister Mark Drakeford last week,” John Osmond said.

“In a vote on the issue before Christmas the Assembly divided 28 to 28 – with all the Opposition parties voting against. However, the motion fell on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer who is obliged to support the status quo in a tied vote.

“On that occasion Joyce Watson sided with her Labour colleagues. But that was before the announcement was made. Now she should put her loyalty to the people of Pembrokeshire before that to her party whip.

“Joyce Watson, who lives in Haverfordwest, must know of the dismay and anger of people in the county at this decision which, if it goes ahead, will inevitably mean that sooner or later pregnant women and/or their babies will die inside ambulances on their way from Pembrokeshire to Carmarthen.

“In the debate on Withybush in the Senedd on November 27, Joyce Watson said: “What is clear to me is that Withybush must retain a service that can stabilise mother and baby when complications occur. That is a red line and a promise that has been given in the Chamber.”

“Well, that red line has now been crossed,” John Osmond continued. “It is clear that the intention is, when complications occur, for mothers and their babies to be taken by ambulance to Carmarthen.

“In the debate in the Senedd that followed the Minister’s announcement on Withybush on January 21, Joyce said: ‘Even with all the very best planning in the world, you can never anticipate the emergency that happens. That was the situation that I found myself in when I was having my son. Within 15 minutes, he was born. Had he not been born, I doubt very much that he would be here now for me to tell you that story. I also doubt very much that I would have been here looking as healthy as I do.’

John Osmond added: “Consultants at Withybush tell me that the maximum safe transfer time for a pregnant woman who experiences complications in childbirth is 20 minutes.

“When he made his announcement the Health Minister tried to address our concerns about the problems of distance and travelling times in Pembrokeshire. He said he wanted to see a ‘robust’ emergency transport service put in place before consultant-led emergency provision was removed from Withybush.

“All these issues have been placed in stark focus by the case of Mrs Kate Sutton, of Johnston, whose life was saved at Withybush hospital in the middle of the night a few weeks ago.

“I can tell the Chamber that detailed work will now go on, involving my officials and local health boards, to accelerate the introduction of a new round-the-clock emergency retrieval service for Wales, deploying specialised medical staff. The planning for that service will include the capacity to transfer sick babies and mothers in labour.”

Joyce’s reply

Asked for her response to this story, Joyce Watson said: “The health minister has confirmed that, while the midwife-led unit is being set up at Withybush, there will be consultant obstetric cover to support midwives. So, should they come across cases that they do not have the confidence or experience to deal with, there will be a consultant available to them. It is critical that all services in place after this initial establishing phase are built around the safety of mothers and babies.

“Hywel Dda has established an over-arching Programme Board to take forward the neonatal, obstetrics and gynaecology model, including ‘safety net’ requirements. I will continue to scrutinise the implementation of these services – including hospital transport – to ensure that the changes are in the best interests of patients in Pembrokeshire and throughout the Hywel Dda area. To that end, I was pleased that the First Minister confirmed once again last week that the future of Withybush hospital as a district general hospital is not under any threat whatsoever.”

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Site visit for National Park planners considering caravan park improvements

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NATIONAL PARK planners, expected to allow officers to approve an application to relocate caravans in a caravan park, will instead attend a site visit there.

Huw Pendleton, of Celtic Holiday Parks, had applied for a change of use of land for the siting of nine relocated static caravans and associated infrastructure improvements at Meadow House Holiday Park, Summerhill.

The application, before the February meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s Development Management Committee, had been recommended for delegated approval by officers if a string of conditions were met.

Delegated approval for the application at the 200-pitch site bordering the national park was mooted despite Amroth Community Council objecting to the application; recommending refusal.

A report for planners said 47 static pitches were previously permitted under a change from 55 touring pitches; nine of these static pitches now being proposed for relocation to an area of land within the holiday park.

It stated the overall number of pitches within the site is not proposed to be increased.

Correspondence had been received which raises concerns on the privacy impact from the proposed static caravans on existing residential properties, as well as the potential for noise and disturbance from occupiers of the site.

It was recommended for delegated approval with a string of conditions including the completion of a Section 106 agreement.

At the February 2 meeting, concerns were raised by neighbour Dorian Evans on amenity grounds, and by local county councillor Alec Cormack, who asked for deferment pending a site visit, saying there would be a “significant impact” on neighbouring properties, which was disputed by agent Gerald Blain.

Following a proposal by Councillor Simon Hancock, members agreed to attend a site visit.

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Wales 10 – Ireland 34: Clinical Ireland outfox wasteful Wales

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RUGBY is often described as a game of inches, where the tiniest errors significantly affect games’ outcomes. That was the case on Saturday, where Ireland won convincingly by making fewer unforced errors than Wales.

As a contest, the game was all but over in the first 25 minutes. Ireland did nothing flash, nothing extraordinary. They were just better at the basics. It’s what you’d expect when the first-ranked team in the world play the ninth.

Conceding a try after two minutes was a bad start, but again and again thereafter, Wales either coughed the ball up or conceded penalties in clutch positions.

Ireland’s game management showed the confidence of being a settled group under a single coach with a defined game plan. Ireland’s players constantly worked off the ball to close gaps and shut off running lines. The Irish slowed down the Welsh ball and applied pressure with clinical precision. The Irish scrum and lineout gave the visitors’ backline time to play.

Whatever the Welsh game plan was before Wayne Pivac left as the coach (answers on a postcard for that one), on Saturday, Wales showed signs of trying to create a pattern of play based on phase play creating the space to allow Wales’s backs to punch through stretched defensive formations. However, a plan is only as good as its execution. And Wales repeatedly created good positions only to make sometimes desperately disappointing mistakes.

Twice Wales had the throw near the Irish line, and twice Irish forwards picked off the ball. On another occasion, Wales went long at the lineout in their half, only for the ball to land on the Irish side. Add that to a crooked throw in a promising position, and Wales lost momentum at crucial stages.
Ireland stormed into an early lead with their first attack ending with Number Eight Doris smashing his way over from close range. It got worse six minutes later when James Ryan scored with almost a carbon copy play.

Wales’s best chance of the opening quarter came when Irish full-back Hugo Keenan got to a loose ball over the Irish line before Welsh winger Rio Dyer.

Although Biggar got the home side off the mark with a penalty, within minutes, a telegraphed pass ended in the hands of Lowe, who streaked over unopposed for Ireland’s third try.

24-3 down soon became 27-3 following another Sexton penalty following Welsh indiscipline at the breakdown. Realistically, that score ended the game. However, in the half’s dying moments, Wales again applied pressure. Jac Morgan, who had a good game in a losing cause, crossed the Irish line only to be held up by a strong Irish defence.

It looked grim at half-time. Wales had been disorganised and disjointed, while every time the Irish got the ball in the Welsh half, they looked like they would come away with points.

Whatever Warren Gatland said at half-time got the Welsh players’ attention.

Wales came steaming out of the blocks in the second half, looking better organised and less frantic. Good phase play opened a gap in the Irish midfield, and Liam Williams sped through the gap to touch down near the posts, making Biggar’s conversion a formality. Wales continued to work through the phases, and only an uncharacteristically poor pass from Justin Tipuric spoiled a good chance for Rio Dyer to get a clear run at the Irish line.

Wales still tried to keep up the pressure but lacked accuracy at key moments when cooler heads might have produced more. As if that wasn’t bad enough, with fifteen minutes of normal time to go, Liam Williams was – maybe a little unluckily – yellow-carded for making contact with the ducking, bobbing and weaving Jonny Sexton’s head.

The man advantage was all Ireland needed to break Wales’s stranglehold on the match. They kept kicking for space behind the Welsh midfield and used Bundi Aki as a midfield battering ram to keep the Welsh players tied in at the breakdown. With Wales stretched and gaps appearing in the defensive live, Van der Flier had the simplest of tasks to add a fourth try for Ireland.

As the clock ticked down – and with Wales 34-10 down – the Irish pressed for the score that would give them a record win in Cardiff. Wales tried again to break out for a consolation score, more in hope than expectation, and it was all Ireland when the final whistle blew.

Warren Gatland said he was “strangely not that disappointed” after the game.

The Wales coach said: “The things I’m disappointed with are things we can put right: the slow start and giving away needless penalties. When you look at the game we put ourselves in positions we could’ve taken advantage of. We can take away the positives, look at our second half performance and improve on that.”

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Chairman of Fishguard Sports AFC made fraudulent claim to council for Covid funds

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THE CHAIRMAN of a Pembrokeshire of a football club tried to con the council out of a Covid grant by claiming a derelict and tumbledown shed was actually a gym.

Owen Duggan, 41, falsely made a bid for £4,000 in pandemic support by claiming the shed was a facility used by players of the club but a visit to the site by a suspicious inspector revealed the truth – Swansea Crown Court heard.

After a council investigation the police were called in and the defendant found himself charged with fraud.

The court was informed that Duggan was perceived as a pillar of the community, who was deeply ashamed of his false claim for his club.

During the trial, prosecutor Jim Davis informed the court that Duggan was the chairman of Fishguard Sports AFC in Pembrokeshire at the time.

The club, which had played its home games at St Mary’s Field owned by the Diocese of St. David’s for 80 years until 2017, was established for 80 years.

He said under the terms of an oral agreement struck in 1947 the club would pay a “small amount for rent” annually for use of the field. The court heard that in 2017 the club moved to a new home at Tregroes Park and at that point it emerged it had not paid any rent on St Mary’s for the last decade.

The court heard that after the changing rooms at St Mary’s were demolished, a shed was left in place and access to the field was closed due to insurance liability issues. In June and October of 2020, Duggan, who was the chairman of Fishguard Sports AFC, applied for Covid funds from Pembrokeshire Council on behalf of the club to support its operations during the pandemic restrictions.

He received grants of £10,000 and £1,000, respectively. However, in January of the following year, he made a third application for £4,000, claiming that the shed was a gym used by the club.

Mr Davis said an inspection of the site was carried out and it was found the shed was “very dilapidated and had not been used for some considerable time” and no evidence could be found it had been used as gym.

An internal investigation was carried out and then the police were alerted to what appeared to be a fraudulent application.

The prosecution’s case was that Duggan’s claim about the shed being used as a gym was false, and he was arrested and questioned but denied any wrongdoing. Duggan, of Heol Dewi in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and was appearing in court for sentencing, with no prior convictions.

Duggan’s barrister portrayed him as a respected community member who greatly contributed to the local area, and pointed out that the case was unusual as the defendant would not have personally benefited from the money even if the application was successful.

He also noted that the club’s financial records showed they were not in difficulty at the time of the fraudulent claim.

The defence stated that Duggan, a loving father of two, was filled with regret and shame for his actions and the negative impact it had on his family and the club.

He had voluntarily resigned from his job at Pembrokeshire County Council as a result of the charge.

Judge Paul Hobson told the defendant: “You are not being sentenced for getting into a muddle or for making an honest mistake. You are being sentenced for fraud. Your actions were thoroughly dishonest”.

The judge said in his view the fact the fraud involved Covid funds was an aggravating factor and he said people who abused those funds could ordinarily expect a prison sentence. Judge Hobson said he accepted Duggan was remorseful for his actions and that the loss of his good character would be a punishment in itself for him.

He also noted the motivation had not been personal gain but he told the defendant he had been “risking the club’s good name” by what he did. Duggan was sentenced to a 12-month community order and must complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs.

The court heard the football club tried to return the money from the fist two grants even though they had been properly obtained but that proved impossible and the money ended up in some sort of leisure fund at the local authority.

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