ABERAVON AM David Rees has criticised the decision to withdraw acute medical services from Neath Port Talbot Hospital, highlighting the fact that the decision was made before plans for alternative arrangements to treat patients had been finalised.
Writing in his constituency report for July, Mr Rees says: “News of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board’s decision to approve the recommendation of stopping acute medical services as from September 1 is very worrying to all of us.
“Over the past two weeks we have seen a variety of comments expressed in the media and, while the anger is understandable, it is important that we move forward in order to ensure the services the public receive are safe and accessible.
“We must acknowledge the difficulties ABMU have faced when trying to recruit doctors to fill the vacant posts that are needed to run the service, and leading medics at the hospital have stressed that without those posts these services could not be delivered safely.”
The health board has said the “urgent removal” of the beds is necessary because acute services at the £66 million hospital – built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative – would become unsafe by September, following difficulties in recruiting enough doctors to staff it.
It said the changes had been advised by “very senior doctors”.
As part of the changes, all the hospital’s acute medical care consultants will move to Morriston Hospital in Swansea.
Mr Rees adds: “There are questions to be asked as to why it has been difficult to recruit these doctors and whether this process was left too late, but that must follow our insistence on getting a plan in place that will see patients treated at the other hospitals without creating any blockage of patients.
“To this end I have met the chief executive of ABMU and senior officers of the board to highlight the concerns of local people and seek assurances for the hospital’s future.
“I have also asked what measures have been put in place to ensure the other sites can handle the extra workload that will follow as a result of this decision. I was surprised to learn that these plans are still being developed and that the decision to stop the services was taken without these being fully established.
“I also had an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health and Social Services, raising similar concerns. The minister informed me that every effort had been made to maintain provision but, on this occasion, they could not recruit suitable qualified doctors to fill all vacancies.
“I have been reassured by the minister that primary focus is, and always has been, on providing safe services for all residences, and that she had been told the hospital will play a major role in service delivery in ABMU.
“I have invited the minister to see for herself the excellent facilities that are available at our wonderful hospital.”