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Questions will be raised over decision to site field hospital at Bluestone

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THE DECISION to site an emergency Covid field hospital at Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone holiday park will come under question at a council meeting later this week.

Milford Haven County councillor Alan Dennison – in a written question to senior councillors – will question whether the use of the facility, said to have cost £10m, was the right choice.

Hywel Dda University Health Board worked with Pembrokeshire County Council in setting up a 126-bed Covid-19 field hospital in April 2020, with Bluestone National Park Resort identified as the most suitable location.

It was previously reported by the Local Democracy Service that the emergency hospital – known as Ysbyty Carreg Las – set up at Bluestone resulted in around £6million paid to the local holiday resort.

At the March 2 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, Milford Haven North county councillor Alan Dennison will ask: “Given that Bluestone was the Pembrokeshire County Council recommended facility for the field hospital during the pandemic, does the cabinet member now consider this was the right choice, given the overall costs of over £10m to the Hywel Dda health board and the loss of income (and centre refurbishment) to the council by not utilising Pembrokeshire leisure centres as Carmarthenshire county council did?”

Cllr Dennison will also submit a Notice of Motion “That any decision taken by PCC in similar circumstances to that of the pandemic response to supply of field hospitals must primarily take into account the financial benefits to the council and ratepayers and not to recommend or endorse any private commercial venture”.

FOI request

In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Hywel Dda has previously supplied a break-down of monthly costs at Ysbyty Carreg Las at Bluestone.

Capital funding via Pembrokeshire County Council of £3million, as well as £1million to return the adventure centre to its original use, was funded by Welsh Government capital funding.

Additional funding was provided for health boards by Welsh Government for Covid-19 responses, some of which “off-set” the cost of field hospitals.

In April 2021, a Bluestone spokesman said the company’s hospitality sales had fallen by over £17.5m in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic, partially offset by a £6m commercial partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board for the use and restoration of Ysbyty Enfys Carreg Las.

Around 30 beds were opened at Ysbyty Enfys Carreg Las to support step-down patients and free up beds at other Hywel Dda hospitals.

A similar FOI to Pembrokeshire County Council revealed that it did “not make any contributions to Bluestone Ltd or to the Hywel Dda University Health Board” and did not contribute to the running costs of the facility, with any staffing cost connected to the establishment of the facility recharged to the health board.

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Health

New X-ray equipment plan at Tenby Cottage Hospital revealed

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X-RAY services at Tenby Cottage Hospital are to receive a major boost thanks to an investment of £625,000 in brand new equipment which is being installed at the Hywel Dda Health Board-run site over the next few weeks.

The equipment, funded by Welsh Government, will allow the unit not only to provide the highest quality images but will also mean patients with reduced mobility or advanced clinical needs can be more easily accommodated.

However, in order to install the new equipment, x-ray services will be temporarily unavailable in Tenby Cottage Hospital until Friday, 19April 2024.

Over the next few weeks, imaging for GP patients will be provided on an appointment only basis at South Pembrokeshire Hospital in Pembroke Dock between 9-5pm.

Patients attending the Minor Injuries walk-in centre can still attend Tenby Cottage Hospital but may be sent to Withybush if an x-ray is required. Alternatively, patients can choose to attend Withybush Emergency Department directly.

John Evans, Pembrokeshire County Director for Hywel Dda said: “We are delighted that Tenby Cottage Hospital will be receiving brand new and up to date x-ray equipment thanks to this investment from Welsh Government.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused over the short period of time while the equipment is being installed but look forward to providing an improved level of care for Tenby community patients into the future.”

Patients needing further help or information should contact the radiology departments at Withybush Hospital on 01437 773385 or South Pembrokeshire Hospital on 01437 774018.

The health board is reminding people not to attend busy A&E departments unless they have a critical, life-threatening emergency and asking people to choose their healthcare services very carefully, so that only people with urgent or emergency care needs are being seen in A&E. 

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Farming

Police warn of disruption to traffic as farmers protests take place

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FARMERS protests are taking place in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen today (Feb 22.)

The police took to Facebook on Thursday morning saying: “We are aware of potential disruption to traffic in Carmarthen and Aberystwyth town centres from midday today.

“The traffic network in and out of the towns may also be affected.

“If you are planning on travelling in those areas today, please consider changing your route or journey time to avoid delays.

“We will update when we have further information.”

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Health

NHS facing unprecedented winter pressures amid record demand

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THE NHS in Wales has been facing significant challenges this winter, with an exceptionally high number of emergency calls and delays that have put immense pressure on its staff and resources, according to the latest activity and performance statistics.

In January, the ambulance service received 5,009 red (life-threatening) calls, accounting for 13.9% of all calls. Despite a slight decrease from December, with an average of 162 life-threatening calls per day, this figure remains the third highest on record. The response times for these urgent calls have also been under scrutiny, with 48.8% of red calls receiving an emergency response within eight minutes, marking the second highest achievement for this metric. The average response time for these calls was 8 minutes and 11 seconds.

The performance data also revealed that approximately 27,000 hours were lost due to handover delays at hospitals, highlighting the systemic pressures faced by the health service. Despite these challenges, nearly all health boards came close to meeting the target for 97% of patient pathways waiting less than two years by 2024, missing it by a mere 0.03%.

Nesta Lloyd-Jones, Assistant Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, commented on the impact of the winter pressures and the exceptional demand on NHS services. “The monumental efforts of our staff have led to some improvements, such as a decrease in the number of people waiting the longest for treatment in December. However, the progress is threatened by the junior doctor strike action in January and February, which has led to a significant number of planned care procedures being postponed.”

Lloyd-Jones stressed the need for comprehensive planning and significant investment in NHS infrastructure and social care to ensure the health service can continue to improve and meet the demands placed upon it. “Good planning alone is not enough. Without significant capital investment and a whole-nation approach to health and wellbeing, alongside substantial changes to social care funding and provision, the progress of NHS leaders will be limited.”

The Welsh NHS Confederation, which represents the seven local health boards, three NHS trusts, and other health organisations in Wales, has been vocal about the challenges faced by the NHS and the need for strategic investment and support to navigate through these difficult times.

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