Health Minister dismisses “rumours” of Withybush maternity downgrades

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This week’s short debate was led by Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies (Con, Preseli Pembs.) on a subject he’s raised several times – the future of Haverfordwest’s Withybush Hospital.

“I refuse to apologise for raising this vital issue once again”

Paul Davies said Hywel Dda health board has undertaken a “ruthless” centralisation programme and service have continued to move from Withybush, with the mooted proposal for a new general hospital located between Narberth and St Clears. Now there were concerns over maternity services:

“So, let’s fast-forward to 2019, and where are we now? Well, there have been recent reports that the health board are once again revisiting how maternity services should be delivered in Pembrokeshire, following media speculation that Withybush Hospital’s midwife-led maternity services are set to be reduced to a day staffed service. This would effectively mean that midwives would be on-call for women who want to give birth at Withybush Hospital out of designated hours.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies

Constituents and petitioners have long raised concerns that the downgrading of one service will have a direct detrimental impact on other services provided at the hospital and the deterioration on services has become so bad that many people are calling for the health board to be placed into special measures.

It’s done nothing to attract new doctors and, while people in Pembrokeshire accept having to travel for specialist services, doing so for emergency and life-saving services (if Withybush’s A&E is replaced with a part-time minor injury unit) was “dangerous”.

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) raised a trust issue within the community – people didn’t believe they would be listened to. Meanwhile, Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) asked the Health Minister directly to dismiss rumours about the maternity unit….and he did.

“No threat” to midwife-led maternity services

“There is absolutely no threat to 24/7 deliveries being made at the Withybush midwife-led unit, and I do hope that will put an end to the scaremongering that is taking place. It is actively scaring members of the local community who rely on those services.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething AM (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth).

The Minister said contentious decisions will always be made when it comes to health but change was vital to ensure health services remain safe and viable into the future. He understood why people had an attachment to their local hospital, but technological changes require more modern working environments and building to attract and retain the best staff.

A new hospital in the area is expected to cost around £350million – not £500million as Paul Davies suggested in his speech – and £15million has been invested at Withybush in pathology, various inpatient services and dialysis.

He added that new general hospitals, like the Grange Hospital in Cwmbran currently under construction, take time. Until a strong business case has been put forward for a new west Wales hospital, services will continue to be delivered via the existing set-up.