By Beth Webster, Welsh nurse
Three major hospitals in West Wales could close under proposals by Hywel Dda University Health Board.
Until now, Welsh Labour has denied there is a crisis in the Welsh NHS – despite reports similar to those in England of waits of over 12 hours for ambulances and patients dying in corridors.
Management is considering various options. But potentially all three hospitals, Withybush in Haverfordwest, Prince Philip in Llanelli and Glangwili in Carmarthen with at least 850 beds collectively, will close.
In their place would be just one new hospital and various ‘community hubs’, with dangerous reductions in intensive and emergency care facilities.
The health board promises to ‘consult’ staff and the public, but offers only choices between which facilities to close, not how to prevent closures in the first place.
This will have a devastating impact on a vast area of West Wales, with the mainly rural population already having to travel vast distances for care.
Residents could be facing an hour’s drive on rural roads to the nearest urgent care facility. That’s assuming they have their own transport – public transport across Wales has faced massive cuts by Welsh Labour in recent years.
Pressure was already piled on to these hospitals a few years ago during an extensive ‘restructure’. This saw the closure of the A&E at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli, the special care baby unit in Withybush General Hospital, Haverfordwest, and the whole Mynydd Mawr Community Hospital in Tumble.
Hywel Dda Health Board ascribes closures to lack of community care facilities, understaffing and underfunding. It has the highest level of overspend of any health board in Wales at £70 million.
The Welsh Government has repeatedly refused to bail out struggling health boards, refusing to acknowledge longstanding problems in recruitment and increased demand.
Wales has an ageing population living with complex, chronic conditions, and worsening economic deprivation.
The Welsh NHS spent £19 million on healthcare from private providers in 2014-15 and this can only have increased since.
Labour MPs in the area have stated they are “closely monitoring the situation,” meaning they will do nothing.
The true nature of Welsh Labour can no longer be denied. Corbyn must make a stand against the Blairites.
There will be massive public outcry if these closures go ahead. If Corbyn won’t bring Welsh Labour to account, working class voters will lose faith in him.
And the unions need to lead a fightback too. We need mass action across the health service and public sector, with coordination of union action, for the working class to retake ownership of our NHS. No cuts, no closures, no privatisation!