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Urgent second dose vaccine appointments issued for mass vaccination centres

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SECOND dose Oxford AstraZeneca appointments for mass vaccination centres across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire have been urgently issued for week beginning 24 May, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed. 

The health board has identified a technical issue that has caused a delay in appointment letters being issued to people who received their first Oxford AstraZeneca at a mass vaccination centre between Monday 8th March and Sunday 14 March.  

This issue has now been rectified and the health board has urgently posted appointment letters to everyone affected. SMS (text messages) have also been sent to those the health board has mobile numbers for.

 

The technical issue has also resulted in some people who had a first vaccine at a GP practice receiving an appointment inviting them to attend a mass vaccination centre. If you received your first vaccine at a GP practice you must attend your GP practice for your second dose to ensure the correct vaccine is available for you.  

If you have received an invite to attend a mass vaccination centre in error, there is no need to contact the health board as these appointments have automatically been cancelled. Please disregard the mass vaccination centre invite and keep your appointment with your GP or wait for them to contact you with your appointment time if you have not already received one.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “As soon as we identified there had been a delay with second vaccine appointments being issued to people who had their first Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine at a mass vaccination centre between Monday 8th March and Sunday 14 March we immediately reissued all letters and sent SMS text messages wherever possible. 

“These appointments are due to start Monday 24 May so it is possible some people may receive their appointment letter late and we apologise for this but please don’t worry if this happens to you.   “If you receive your letter and the appointment has past, please contact our booking team on 0300 303 8322 so we can book you a new appointment. We will make sure you have your second appointment on schedule. Please wait to receive your letter before phoning us. We thank you for your understanding and patience.” 

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Health

Covid cases in Wales now doubling every six and a half days

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THE CORONAVIRUS situation in Wales is not looking good, latest figures suggest with cases doubling every six-and-a-half days. This was the stark warning of Wales’ chief medical officer Frank Atherton on Monday (Jul 12).

There have been almost 1,200 new confirmed Covid cases in Wales for the last 48-hour period.

The latest update from Public Health Wales on Monday, July 12 recorded 1,190 more positive cases to bring the total since the pandemic began to 225,691. There were no further deaths meaning the overall total remains 5,579.

Wales’ infection rate has risen to 136.1 cases per 100,000 population based on the seven days between Jul 1 and July 7 – up on 127 on Sunday. Fifteen of Wales’ 22 local authorities are now reporting more than 100 positive cases per 100,00 people.

The figures are based on the date a test was done, not the date a test was put on the system, meaning it is an accurate reflection of how fast the virus is spreading in Wales.

Dr Atherton was speaking at the Welsh Government coronavirus briefing days before the latest review of restrictions in Wales.

He said that the R number for Wales was now estimated to be between 1.8 and 1.9 by Public Health Wales – this is one of the highest rates reported at any point since the peak of the first wave.

He said at the briefing: “This means every person who is infected is going on to infect almost another two people.”

Dr Atherton was joined by Dr Gillian Richardson, who oversees the vaccine roll-out programme in Wales, who warned that young people were particularly vulnerable.

She said: “Only about 75% of 18 to 39-year-olds have had a first dose. This means one in four in this age group are still not protected. These young adults are vulnerable to infection, serious illness and life-changing long-Covid, as well as loss of earnings if they have to self-isolate as cases of the Delta variant are increasing in this age group.”

She added: “We can confidently say that vaccines have weakened the link between infections, serious illness and hospitalisations and deaths. But they haven’t broken the link.

“This is why it’s really important to have high levels of vaccination in all age groups and also why we need to work together to keep coronavirus under control because this virus can still cause harm, especially if rates rise very steeply, as we are expecting.”

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Health

Health board upbeat about vaccination programme as 500,000th injection given

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THE 500,000th COVID-19 vaccine was given this weekend, with more than 72% of the population across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire now having had their first dose.

To mark this achievement, Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB) is recognising all involved in this extraordinary effort and thanking those who have come forward for their vaccine.

From the administration of the first vaccine at Glangwili Hospital in early December, the programme for mid and west Wales was able to expand at great speed thanks to the involvement of primary care colleagues in GP practices and community pharmacies and the opening of mass vaccination centres across the three counties.

All elements of the programme have been supported along the way by volunteers, partner organisations and a range of staff ‘behind the scenes’ including IT, the health board’s Command Centre, pharmacy teams, public health, security staff and many more.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB said, “It is something that has been said previously, but it can’t be overstated what an undertaking a mass vaccination programme of this scale has been.

“It has only been possible thanks to the many organisations, teams and individuals who have worked tirelessly over the past eight months.

“This milestone has been reached at a time when we are sadly seeing an increase in COVID cases across our region, but thanks to the vaccine we are hopeful that our hospitals will not experience the same demand as was seen in the first and second wave.

“We will keep working to do more and increase take up beyond 75%, and deliver second doses for everyone that needs one, but we need everyone’s help to do this.

“Every dose administered, and every person protected really does make a difference. The vaccines are safe and effective. Your second dose of vaccine is important for longer lasting protection against COVID-19 and against the Delta variant.”

No one left behind is a key principle to the Welsh vaccination programme. Whilst the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in Wales has been extremely high, there are still groups of the population who, despite receiving more than one offer, remain unvaccinated.

The NHS will always be ready for you if you didn’t take up your first offer of COVID-19 vaccination for whatever reason but have changed your mind, it is never too late to arrange an appointment.

If you would like to book your first dose please contact the health board in any of the following ways to request an appointment:

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Health

Withybush woes as new consultation launched

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• Health Board says coronavirus has had a major impact on services • New hospital could be built between St Clears and Narberth
• It’s a similar plan which led to protests involving thousands of locals in 2018

MORE than 18,000 people have signed the petition opposing the decision to downgrade Withybush General Hospital, but that was three years ago, and it seems that the health board may have forgotten the locals’ anger.

The health board is launching a consultation exercise to “deliver on our long-term commitment for a healthier mid and west Wales”

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “The global pandemic has had a major impact on all areas of our lives so it’s crucial that the health board considers, reflects and learns from this extraordinary period. This engagement exercise will allow the public to tell us in their own words how COVID-19 has affected their health and care, and access to it.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to participate.” 

Under similar proposals to those first unveiled in 2018 a new district general hospital would be built on the border between Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire providing A&E services, while in some of the options Carmarthen’s Glangwili hospital would also lose services, including A&E.

The people of Pembrokeshire protested. They protested outside the hospital, they marched through Town, they took their placards to the Senedd.

There was no one, it seemed, who wanted a new super hospital ‘up the line’.

Save Withybush Hospital protests back in 2018 in Haverfordwest

Ten months ago, the First Minister and Health Minister of Wales were united in their decision not to offer any reassurances to the safeguarding of A&E services at Withybush Hospital.

With the July 2020 u-turn of Cwm Taff health board not to remove services at Royal Glamorgan Hospital, the ministers have come under pressure to offer reassurances to the future of Withybush services.

Mark Drakeford said last summer that the decision was down to local health boards, with Vaughan Gething, Health Minister taking a similar stance.

Withybush has already seen the downgrade to its maternity services, with it now being a mostly daytime service with expectant mums with pregnancy complications or those giving birth after 5pm mostly having to travel across the border into Carmarthenshire to give birth. Other departments have also been shrunk on what locals call “a salami slicing away of local services”

Speaking at a Plenary last year Vaughan Gething, was asked by Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies, the Welsh Government’s position on the delivery of A&E services at Pembrokeshire and if they would remain at Withybush.

Mr Davies said: “You’ll be aware, there is a strong campaign to retain A&E services at Withybush General Hospital.

“Given the recent news that Cwm Taff health board has decided to retain A&E services at The Royal Glamorgan Hospital, the people of Pembrokeshire are now looking at that decision and, quite rightly, asking for the same safeguards.”

The Health Minister said that the decision to overturn the removal of services at Royal Glamorgan Hospital, was made after they were able to recruit more staff which would help them safely deliver that service. Recruitment problems have often been cited as a key problem at Withybush Hospital in recent years.

Mr Gething said, “The member will also know, over a long period of time, the challenges that have been faced in delivering healthcare across Wales and the plans for the future delivery of healthcare.”

He added “The health board is now planning for the continued provision of essential and key services alongside caring for patients affected by Covid-19.”

However, although the Welsh Government is desperately trying to distance itself from its unpopular decisions on local health provision, the buck stops with it.

In November 2018 hundreds of people took to the streets to oppose the downgrading of Withybush. But now it is clear that the plan of a new hospital further away from Pembrokeshire’s population centres and industrial complexes is still on the cards.

Surprisingly, the exact cost of the new hospital, and its exact location, is yet to be determined but the health board is hoping to finalise a ‘programme business case’ in the coming weeks which will then be submitted to the Welsh Government this summer.

A full business case can be signed off by March 2024, The Pembrokeshire Herald understands.

Protestors outside Withybush at the 2018 protests

The health board has said the plan to reshape the way people receive medical treatment in west Wales is part of the “ongoing process” that is now under way with an engagement exercise running until June 21.

According to a new eight-page document published by Hywel Dda entitled ‘Building a Healthier Future After Covid-19’ the pandemic has been a “big challenge” which created an “extremely difficult” period.

The document, seen by The Pembrokeshire Herald, states: “We are progressing plans for a new hospital in the south of the area, somewhere between and including the towns of St Clears, Carmarthenshire, and Narberth, Pembrokeshire. At this early stage, we would welcome site nominations you may have and your views on how we compare possible sites.”

The health board is inviting people’s opinions on a post-Covid future in general and how healthcare is provided across the region today and in the future – pointing out that health and wellbeing centres have been opened in Aberaeron and Cardigan while plans are in the pipeline for similar facilities in Llanelli and Cross Hands.

While many aspects remain uncertain at this stage one thing that has been decided is that the new hospital is to be built between St Clears and Narberth because “this location is the most central to most of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area”. The site will also have at least 35 acres of “developable land” with “appropriate transport infrastructure”.

A spokesman for the health board said: “The new hospital will be our main site for the network of all our hospitals, providing both urgent and planned care. It will enable us to have more consultants in permanent posts being available more of the time and specialising in areas of care. Consultant-led services will be available 24-hours a day seven days a week.

“We will provide rapid access to specialist assessment and treatment, discharging people as soon as possible so they can receive rehabilitation closer to home. Emergency and unplanned care will be provided in a different building to planned care therefore avoiding the disruption or delay that can occur from high volumes of emergency cases.”

The public is also being asked to nominate sites for a new hospital based on four criteria: (1) The nominated site must be within the zone between and including St Clears in Carmarthenshire and Narberth in Pembrokeshire. This location is the most central to most of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area. (2) The nominated site should be a minimum of 35 acres of reasonably developable land. (3) The nominated site should have realistic prospects of obtaining planning permission for a new hospital. (4) There should be appropriate transport infrastructure for a major hospital site.

The health board said: “Anyone can have their say on the plans by emailing the health board at hyweldda.engagement@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 01554 899056.”

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