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Winter ops axe causes outrage

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withybushhosp-5464760HYWEL Dda Local Health Board announced controversial plans this week to make major cutbacks to winter services that will profoundly affect patients awaiting operations at Withybush Hospital.
The decision has enraged local politicians, as well as a leading union, along with scores of patients who will be adversely affected by these cuts.
In a press release issued on their web site, the Hywel Dda LHB said: “The Health Board has a responsibility to ensure continued safe care at this time of increased pressure, and is putting plans in place now to respond to the anticipated increase in activity over the winter season.
‘’In previous winters, we had up to 160 additional beds in place often being managed by temporary staff. This is not a position we can sustain this year. To address this, we propose to manage our bed stock and elective surgical lists in a better way during the busiest months this winter to ensure we have the staff capacity to manage emergencies and the most urgent patients.
‘’We would like to reassure patients that if they have an urgent clinical need they will be seen. Emergency and cancer procedures, the vast majority of orthopaedic day surgery and other elective procedures will also continue.”
The proposals announced by the Health Board state that the use of theatres will be for those with the highest clinical need and they will be reviewing and re-profiling patients on orthopaedic waiting lists, as well as increasing day surgery cases and maximising alternative methods of treatment through non-surgical pathways.
They further state they will monitor the position on a weekly basis and review that position towards the end of the winter surge. There will also be a non-emergency surgical shutdown for two weeks over Christmas.
One such patient awaiting surgery is Angela Burns, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire AM, who is highly critical of the proposals.
She told The Herald: “This shutdown will unfairly hit the elderly and vulnerable hardest, many of whom would have been waiting for months already. While conditions requiring orthopaedic surgery may not be life threatening, the constant pain, loss of mobility and pure daily effort to live with these conditions is immense.
‘’The thought of waiting another six months for my own knee replacement fills me with dread, and I know there are many, many more in far worse situations and far more pain than myself. I cannot begin to comprehend the feelings of some people who attend my surgeries to tell me that they cannot stand long enough to cook, and rely on ready meals alone.
‘’My heart goes out to these patients and their families and I will fight loudly and consistently against these plans. Labour’s record-breaking cuts and its failure to recruit staff are hampering hardworking staff and I urge ministers to put an end to these mistakes”.
The Health Service union, UNISON, reacted angrily to the Health Board plans and, Branch Chairperson, Wendy Evans, said: “The Health Board already has a waiting time of 15 months for patients awaiting orthopaedic surgery. This will clearly add at least another five to six months to their waiting time, causing further distress and possibly further complications to their condition”.
She went on to say that UNISON had immediately written to the Health Minister, Mr Mark Drakeford to complain about the decision. UNISON also suggested that, in staff meetings at Prince Philip Hospital of this week, the Orthopaedic consultant surgeons were also deeply critical of the plans.
UNISON Regional Organiser, Jeff Baker, said: “This is another example of the Health Board making a unilateral decision on service changes without properly consulting either the staff or the community.”
Liberal Democrat, William Powell, AM for Mid and West Wales, has called for clarity following UNISON’s claims, that all planned orthopaedic surgery for the four main hospitals in the Hywel Dda Health Board area have been cancelled until April 2014.
He said: “The Welsh Labour Government and local Health Boards seem surprised that winter comes around every year. Cold weather and snow can cause difficulties in the NHS but proper planning would ensure that patients are treated all year round.
‘’Many people who are waiting for orthopaedic surgery often have to endure months in pain. It is not right that they have to wait even longer because of the Welsh Labour Government’s incompetence. This is not an acceptable way to run a National Health Service”.
Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas, who sits on the all-party Finance Committee of the National Assembly, added his concern: “The scrapping of non-urgent surgery is bitterly disappointing for my constituents. It is disappointing that saving money comes before ensuring people get their operations, when the Welsh NHS has had extra money in their budgets this year.
‘’Earlier this year, Plaid Cymru highlighted the lack of action by Welsh Health Boards to recruit more doctors and more nurses from across the European Union.”
The Herald spoke exclusively to Pam O’Dare, one of the unfortunate patients who are likely to be told their wait for hip surgery is to be extended as a result of these cut backs.
She reacted angrily to what she sees as grim news: “I was under the impression my surgery would be in December or January. Now, it is likely to be put back to April 2014, and it might be a lot further on than that.
‘’I had a hip replacement four years ago and the surgeons were excellent, but the wait is very painful. The pain can be very bad and I am taking some very strong painkillers. I have a high pain threshold but this is unbearable. Why is it always about cut backs for patients?”
The Welsh Government appeared to have been caught on the hop by Hywel Dda LHB’s announcement. At questions in the Senedd, First Minister Carwyn Jones revealed he was given 24 hours’ notice of its content.
The Herald contacted the Welsh Government for further comment: “The Health Minister stated at a recent Health and Social Services Committee meeting that his expectation is for winter plans to be published by individual health boards, once they have been through clearance with their individual boards. We are writing to health boards confirming this expectation.”
Meanwhile, patients like Pam O’Dare and AM, Angela Burns, wait to find out what effect these proposals will have on an already lengthy waiting time.

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Ambitious community project to capture untold stories from across Pembrokeshire

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MILFORD HAVEN’S Torch Theatre is launching ‘The Pembrokeshire Story’, an exciting new community project that aims to connect people across generations in celebrating the Pembrokeshire spirit.

We all love a good story, but they are especially good if they throw light on the place that we are from. The Pembrokeshire Story is trying to bring local artists and our community together by mapping the county through everyday stories told by the people who live here. A story might be something as simple as how life has changed over the years or it might be a special event that you would want to remember. So often these stories remain as legends within our own families, but this is a chance to share them with the world. Everyone has a story to tell and this project will facilitate these stories to be recorded and remembered for generations to come.

The inspiration behind the project originated from the Torch Theatre’s Artistic Director, Peter Doran, who, whilst caring for his father who was suffering with Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic in 2020, encouraged his father to elaborate on stories which previously he had only touched on in passing.

Peter said: “My father told us of his time as an evacuee, having been sent from his home in Liverpool to the Welsh speaking village of Llamberis in North Wales. It was a fascinating tale and one that we might never have heard about had it not been for Covid-19. We’re all so busy, I feel we just don’t spend enough time with each other to allow these wonderful moments to happen, we’re all so busy it would seem.”

Peter’s father has thankfully gone on to make a full recovery from Covid-19 and is continuing to tell many more stories.

The Pembrokeshire Story is being led by Tenby based creative James Williams, who has assembled a team of freelance artists to capture extraordinary stories in different mediums from across the county. These stories are only part of the project and the Torch Theatre requires your help to capture your stories told across the generations.

James added: “Local artists have already been working to gather stories from over the county, and now we’d like to ask you to join in. We are putting out a call for videos made by young people where they interview their grandparents or older relatives about their experiences and stories of Pembrokeshire. These videos will be added to an online Living Archive which will be available for anyone to access.”

All the stories submitted will be added to the Living Archive on the Pembrokeshire Story website which will be launched in April. Videos can be made on a phone or recorded from a digital platform call (ideally filmed in landscape), they can be in English or in Welsh but must be no longer than 5 minutes.

If you would prefer not to film your submission, we would be happy to receive your story as an audio recording (mp3 format) or in writing, with an accompanying photograph.

For more information visit https://www.torchtheatre.co.uk/the-pembrokeshire-story/

If you would like to submit a story, please contact James Williams via this email address marketing@torchtheatre.co.uk

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NHS worker from Pembroke Dock raises over £1,550 in a sponsored challenge

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An NHS worker from Pembroke Dock has raised over £1,550 in a sponsored challenge with her husband Edd, having been inspired by the support their young niece received as a baby at Glangwili Hospital Special Care Baby Unit.

Donna Reed works in the Communications Team at Hywel Dda University Health Board and wanted to do her bit to say thanks to everyone who nursed Layla and supported the family for several weeks when she arrived very early in 2012.

Donna says, “Born at just 3lbs, Layla is now a beautiful, bubbly and full of beans eight-year-old. As a family we’d like to give something back to the staff who cared for Layla when she was so tiny.”

Donna and Edd raised over £1,000 on a JustGiving page and a donation of £500 was made by Edd’s employer, Valero Energy Ltd, where he works as a Process Operator.

Karen Jones, a Senior Nurse thanked the couple for their efforts. She said, “We really appreciate what Donna and Edd have done to support us. Donations like this are used to purchase items for parents and babies in order for their stay to be more comfortable and to help make the stay less stressful – items such as parent pamper packs, items for the parent’s sitting room and overnight room baby’s journal, items to support breast feeding and items to support premature babies development. They are also used to support specialist neonatal training for staff and purchase specialist neonatal equipment.”

Donna and Edd are planning a series of physical challenges through the year. Donna adds, “A year on since I started fundraising for Glangwili Hospital’s SCBU, and after all but one of my events last year were postponed, I decided to take on a very unique challenge to raise another £100 to get to my target.

“I ran the Narberth Nobbler’s 4 x 4 x 48 challenge between March 5-7. The event involved me and Edd running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours, a total of 48 miles over the weekend. This is an incredibly tough endurance event that will test our stamina, perseverance and mettle.”
Layla’s mother Rebeca said, “As Layla was born prematurely it was a very worrying time, however we knew she was in the best hands in SBCU as they built her up to a healthy weight and did everything they could to reassure us as parents.

“We are so grateful for the care and support that staff gave to Layla and to our family, and to my sister and Edd for raising money for the unit.”
Donna also plans to take part in Broad Haven Triathlon, Cardiff Half Marathon and Snowdon Marathon Eryri, providing they go ahead.
Donna would like to thank everyone who’s supported her fundraising so far and is encouraging people to donate if they can, “Any amount, no matter how small, will help make a difference and 100% of funds raised will go towards helping babies like Layla and their families,” she says.

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Great Western Railway and the Fishguard Ocean Port – How WWI dashed ambitious plans for Fishguard

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by Doug Evans

ALTHOUGH Fishguard Port is best known now for its easy route to Ireland, it was once part of an ambitious plan to take trans-Atlantic passengers away from the likes of Plymouth and Southampton.

In 1889, the Great Western Railway rook over the North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway, and in preparation of turning Fishguard into a purpose-built ocean liner port, the GWR opened its first station, Fishguard & Goodwick railway station, in 1899 while work on the new port began with the construction of Fishguard Harbour’s East breakwater.

The overlooking village of Harbour Village was built to accommodate workers and the necessary 27 acres site and 900 metre breakwater were provided by blasting 1.6 million tonnes of rock from the cliff face.

A new line would connect the proposed liner terminal on the East Breakwater to the West Wales line. The new 2 mile route, which would have bypassed the steeper gradients and curves on this part of the original line, would have included a deep cutting, embankments and two tunnels.

However, the project to build a breakwater and an ocean-going terminal was abandoned after it became clear silting (which could not be prevented by dredging) would stop large ocean-going ships from using the port.

Local legend has it that the engineer responsible for this mistake committed suicide after realising the port was not suitable for its intended purpose. Another local myth suggests that the breakwater was deliberately built this way as locals didn’t want the harbour to become too large.

The East Breakwater was left unfinished. Two short sections of the planned railway to the new port terminal were completed before the project was ended.

In 1906, Fishguard and West Wales was visited by the largest ship in the world at the time the RMS Mauretania.

Fishguard Harbour, from above

An archived pamphlet for the Fishguard Port from 1913 provides a fascinating insight into the journey from America to London at the time.

It reads: “Fishguard is situated on the south-west coast of Wales, and is the nearest British port to New York used by Atlantic liners. It affords the quickest means of reaching London, and is also a convenient port for the Continent.

“In addition, many parts of England and Wales are within easy access of Fishguard; the Metropolis is 262 miles away and this distance is covered in under five hours.

“Tickets for seats in the special train from Fishguard to London will be furnished to Saloon passengers holding railway coupons. Passengers who do not hold coupons can purchase same at Purser’s Office before leaving the steamer.

“Single tickets and outward halves of return tickets between Fishguard and London are available for three months if purchased in America, or if issued in exchange for vouchers obtained in America. In other circumstances they are available for ten days.

“The baggage of London-bound passengers is ready labeled, “London, via Fishguard,” the lettering being white on a purple ground, the bold lettering and the distinctive coloring precluding the possibility of confusion.

“The route from Fishguard to London, passing through the industrial centres in South Wales and the charming scenes of the Thames valley, is full of interest.

“The speed at which the run is covered is the most potent tribute to the excellence of the Great Western’s iron road and their rolling stock.  Only one stop is made, and this of a very short duration, at Cardiff.

“Between the Fishguard of today and that of even a decade ago there is a great difference. A bay which boasted but of a departing or rather departed fishing industry, and was visited by only a few coastwise traders and fishing craft seeking shelter, has been converted into a splendid harbour, a harbour in which great natural advantages have been ably supplemented by the works which the Great Western Railway Company have constructed.

“At the quay by the railway station the splendid fleet of turbine steamers running between Fishguard and Rosslare (Ireland) are berthed, and here are the most modern appliances for the speedy transfer from ship to train, or vice versa, of goods and baggage.”

Although the ambitious plans for Fishguard were not to be, the Port continues to this day, providing crossings to Rosslare with the Superferry Stena Europe providing two daily crossings all year round.

Transport for Wales operate from Fishguard Harbour and have special trains to connect with the arrival and departures of the Stena Line Superferry Stena Europe that operates to/from Rosslare.

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