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Protestors: ‘Health meeting is a load of bull’



portestWITHYBUSH Hospital’s Conference Centre was the scene of protests on Thursday as the Local Health Board held its first executive board meeting in the county since confirming its intention to proceed with the imminent transfer of vital services from Haverfordwest to Carmarthen. Ahead of the meeting, the Herald spoke to some of those gathered outside: Heather Scammell from Haverfordwest told us: “It’s vitally important that we retain core services at Withybush. Carmarthen is just too far to get to in an emergency and I know from my own experience how vitally important it is to get there quickly when push comes to shove. “When he was 13, my son collapsed into a diabetic coma. He was rushed to A&E at Withybush and I was told he wouldn’t have made it in time to get to Carmarthen. He was in a paediatric ward for a week, in a high dependency unit and then on to an ordinary ward. He had open access to that ward as a child. “I could get there in five minutes, if there were subsequent problems. It was a safe environment for him to be treated in. If A&E had been reduced to a 12 hour service, my son would be dead. “My husband died in the intensive care unit five years ago; they are talking about reducing critical care. The three weeks he was there I could stay there and get there quickly. It was such an important part of his being ready to die and me coming to terms with what was happening. If he had died on the way to Glangwili I would probably still be in pieces. “We were also able to donate his organs which I regarded as so important, it helped me so much. We and the recipients of the organs would have been denied that. Just because they have decided to apply an urban model into a rural area where we don’t have the infrastructure. We do not trust the Health Board or the Welsh Assembly Government. “I think it’s partly a money saving issue and they have this model – everything is ‘sucked’ to Carmarthen. The roads deteriorate as you cross the border (into Pembrokeshire). Carmarthen voted them (the Assembly) in – we didn’t. “A hospital contributes so much to the economy. People, staff, will have to move away. The knock on effect will be massive. Already I know of one couple who have chosen not to retire down here because they don’t trust the Health Board to provide the health care they need. My mother was ill recently and I felt I couldn’t bring her down here. I no longer have the confidence it would have been safe to bring her down from Stafford.” Moira Lewis of Goodwick was even more trenchant in her criticism: “This is the slippery slope of downgrading Withybush Hospital”. Discussing whether the Board would address protestors’ concerns she said: “I walked out in disgust as I could see it was a whitewash and they were only here to put over only what they were going to do. They hadn’t taken any notice of the letters they had received, or the demonstrations. “I walked out when they started saying they were going to give evidence of a patient experience in Withybush, that had nothing to do with the cuts, it was about a woman with diabetes, how she arrived in hospital etc etc. “I said this has got nothing to do with what is going on in Withybush, this is a load of bull, it’s disgraceful – you haven’t listened to anybody and taken no notice of demonstrations. They (the Health Board) are determined to put through whatever changes they have suggested no matter what, to the detriment of people in the county and people will suffer as a result and there could be deaths. “It’s like we are becoming a third world country here. I don’t know what we can do – the Court of Human Rights maybe – we must discuss that with the SWAT committee.” The Pembrokeshire Herald can reveal that a key element of the muchvaunted “safety net” announced by Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford is still not finalised. The Special Care Baby Unit is due to close on August 4. An advertisement to crew the 24/7 single ambulance that will replace emergency maternity admissions in Withybush has a closing date 24 hours afterwards. That advertisement indicates that the Board is seeking 12 paramedic staff to replace inpatient consultant-led services for emergency mother and baby admissions, offering salaries of between £21,424 and £27,901 for a twelve month secondment. The fact that the secondment is only of one year’s duration adds fuel to concerns that the Board, which has not yet even begun to build the midwifeled unit scheduled for Withybush, and might seek to renege on its pledge to retain maternity services at the hospital. The Herald has been told by hospital staff that they have been told that if there are problems in delivering a midwife-led service at Haverfordwest, the Maternity Unit will close. The Herald also understands from hospital staff members that the Board has told them that they must transfer to Glangwili without compensation when their duties are redeployed or they will be deemed to have “voluntarily” left the Board’s employment. In a separate story the Herald asked the Health Board to comment on the rumoured withdrawal of the Out of Hours Doctors Service at South Pembs. The Board responded to our request and a spokesperson told us: “The rumour is not true. The service at South Pembrokeshire Hospital has not been withdrawn. We do regularly have an Out of Hours GP based there on a Saturday and Sunday mornings. Recently, due to ongoing shortages of GPs, there have been occasions when this has been unable to happen. On these occasions, the out of hours service is still available at Withybush Hospital.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms



A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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Pembrokeshire residents urged to take a virtual GP consultation when offered



PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being urged to take up the offer of a virtual consultation, over the phone or video call with their GP, to help Keep Wales Safe during the current lockdown ‘stay at home’ restrictions.

The way we access local NHS services is changing, with more ways in which you can consult your doctor or nurse. Most surgeries now offer telephone as well as electronic advice consultations in the first instance. Following your advice call, a face to face appointment may be organised, but video consultations are also available. You can now speak to a doctor or healthcare professional using the video camera in your smartphone, tablet or computer and a connection to the internet. This is often more convenient and can save you time, as you will not need to travel for a face-to-face appointment. The system used is confidential and secure.

In a recent YouGov survey carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign only 27% of residents in Mid and West Wales had made use of the GP virtual service over the past 12 months with just 57% having heard of the service. However, 88% believed it was important to have access to a remote GP consultation once they had learnt of its existence.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “If you are offered a video consultation appointment this is because your Health Care Professional has indicated that is it safe and appropriate to do so. Your video appointment will be confidential and will not be recorded. If you require support please contact your GP surgery using the number provided in the appointment confirmation.”

She continued: “By putting off small problems or regular appointments you could potentially be putting more strain on NHS emergency services so please, help us to help you, do not put anything off. Local GP surgeries are open and are there to offer medical advice and consult patients.”

After being offered a video consultation you will be sent a letter, email or text with details of your appointment. This communication will contain details of the service that has requested to see you by video and have provided a web address link. You can type or copy the web address link into a web browser via an internet enabled device and this will take you to the video clinic waiting area.

  • In order to access your virtual appointment, you will need:
  • Access to a device that will allow you to access the internet. You should use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge web browser on a desktop or laptop, or on an Android tablet or smartphone or Safari web browser on an Apple iMac, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone.
  • Your device will need a webcam (camera), speakers and microphone.
  • A good internet connection (if you can watch a YouTube video, this is good indication that you have a good connection).
  • An internet usage plan that is sufficient to cover the data consumption of a video call – ideally use a Wi-Fi connection if you have this available.

Sixty two percent of those surveyed by YouGov in Mid and West Wales said they will continue to access NHS services using the new ways that have been introduced as a result of the pandemic. The new methods include making more use of pharmacists; virtual GP consultations and using the NHS 111 online and telephone services.

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‘Cautious optimism’ for county’s tourism sector – but clarity still needed



‘GIVE us clarity’ is the overriding message from the County’s tourism and hospitality businesses as the sector looks forward with cautious optimism to another busy season.

In a meeting hosted by Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, thirty key local businesses were able to share their views with Paul Davies MS, Pembrokeshire County Council, the National Park and Visit Pembrokeshire.

The meeting focussed on the need for business support measures so long as uncertainty remains over the timetable for re-opening the economy in Wales.

Stephen Crabb said: “There is a lot of belief around that this summer will see another ‘staycation’ boom so long as the vaccination programme continues to make good progress and infection rates fall. Pembrokeshire has had a lot of national media coverage in recent months and could experience a bumper season but it’s crucial we get the re-opening right. There is a clear need for some kind of timetable to help businesses prepare appropriately and for clear rules to avoid confusion and contradictory messages.”

Paul Davies said: “It was a pleasure to hear from tourism businesses across Pembrokeshire about some of the challenges that they’re currently facing. The message was pretty clear – they want clarity from the Welsh Government and some timescales by which they can start to plan for reopening. I’ll certainly be taking back the concerns highlighted during the meeting and raising them with Welsh Government Ministers at the Senedd.”

Emma Thornton from Visit Pembrokeshire added: “Great to attend the Hospitality and Tourism Round table event today and to have the opportunity to discuss the ongoing challenges our industry faces over the coming months but also to share a collective optimism for what we believe will be a really strong year for tourism in Pembrokeshire when we are able to reopen and welcome our visitors back.

“Visit Pembrokeshire as the new Destination Management (DMO) for Pembrokeshire will be working closely with local stakeholders and businesses to help realise this opportunity in a sustainable and responsible way mindful of protecting what makes our beautiful county so special”

Stephen Crabb: Wants clarity for tourism businesses

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