Plaid Cymru has responded to the decision of Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB) to downgrade Withybush and Glangwili hospitals by calling on the Welsh Government's Health Secretary to intervene and properly merge health and social services.
Since Hywel Dda's Transforming Clinical Services consultation got underway, Plaid Cymru elected members have held a number of 'Health Summits' with a range of clinicians to determine how best to deliver and health and social care services across the region.
Following today's announcement by Hwyel Dda UHB, Plaid Cymru representatives have called today's proposals "disappointing" and a "missed opportunity to genuinely transform health and social care."
Plaid Cymru said there is a "vacuum of information" on how services will be integrated, recruitment solved and services delivered. Plaid Cymru representatives called on the Labour Health Secretary to intervene to also guarantee community beds and capital investment.
Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru AM for Mid and West Wales said,
"This decision is the latest in a long line in the never ending saga that is hospital reconfiguration and in particular the persistent proposals to remove essential emergency services from smaller hospitals whilst failing to strengthen primary care and tackle the chronic workforce shortages faced by rural health boards.
"It is clear to us that the Health Board's choice doesn't address how services will actually be improved in the short to medium term. There is no proposal for better out-of-hours care, no plan for substantial increases in social care services, and no plans for investing in the ambulance services – only the removal of essential services and the hope that maybe, one day, we'll see a new hospital.
"The decision also makes no mention of the transformation that needs to occur in the relationship with local authorities and the third sector for the changes to be realised.
Adam Price, Plaid Cymru AM for Carmarthen and East Dinefwr said,
"The obsession with endless reconfiguration of secondary care has to stop. Where are the positive plans, such as those Plaid Cymru has presented, to strengthen GP services and preventative healthcare; invest in medical training and tackling staff recruitment and retention? There is a vacuum of information. Creating an integrated health and social care model which works in the community should be done first in order to shape the hospital services we need.
"There's nothing radical or transformational about closing a few hospitals and opening a new one. The transformation comes by recognising that model isn't delivering, and it is only by working with an integrated health and community care system will we truly change people's lives.
"Furthermore, the health board intends ploughing ahead with a new hospital without a single penny being guaranteed for its construction. We need an urgent statement from the Health Secretary to confirm the Welsh Government will guarantee the costs. Without that guarantee, today's plans are meaningless and nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from the desire to downgrade local hospitals.
Jonathan Edwards, Member of Parliament for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr added,
"The health board continues to look at services with a hospital-only focus, expecting reconfiguration to magically save money without outlining what it will do, working with local authorities, to deliver the community care model upon which these new plans depend.
"If this is meant to be a holistic approach to health services, we have to ask why the health board has failed to mention the retention of community beds such as those at Amman Valley hospital. We call upon the Labour Health Secretary to guarantee those beds today.
"For a host of reasons today's announcement is disappointing and a missed opportunity to genuinely transform health and social care. If it is serious about getting Hywel Dda away from entering Special Measures and into a sound financial position, the Welsh Government has got to intervene and mandate the merger of health and social services."