Sunday 29 September 2013

Spin doctors

Last week was a busy week for news in Carmarthenshire. On Tuesday the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab) announced that the accident and emergency unit at the Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli would be downgraded to become a nurse-led service supported by doctors.

Except of course that he did not use the word "downgrade".

Of all the worries and concerns that people in this region have at the moment, the future of our health services tops the list. Llanelli is the largest town in West Wales, and campaigners have fought long and hard to try to protect services at Prince Philip. 33,000 residents signed petitions opposing the change, which has nevertheless been given the go-ahead.

They have now been given leave to seek a judicial review of the minister's decision. 

Simon Thomas (Plaid), AM for Mid and West Wales, has said that lifesaving services should be located as close to patents as possible, and that keeping the doctor-led A+E service in Llanelli is important. He is also worried that the Welsh Government has not considered the increased pressure that will be put on Morriston Hospital as a result of the changes.

Elin Jones, Plaid's Shadow Health Minister, said that her party would continue to oppose changes which were unsafe. If staff shortages were one of the factors which, according to the Welsh Government, had led to the need for reconfiguration, then recruitment was the solution.

Keith Davies (Lab), the AM for Llanelli, takes a rather different view. Changing from a fully-fledged A+E service to a nurse-led unit is emphatically not a downgrade, he says on his website, but is all about "upskilling" staff to provide a local service.

Whereas Simon Thomas was worried that sending patients to an overstretched Morriston was a recipe for trouble, Keith Davies's tells his voters,

"Let us not forget how important Prince Philip was during the last winter when Glangwili and Morriston were unable to cope."

Anyone who says otherwise, according to Keith, is guilty of spin.

Any Llanelli residents feeling dazed and confused after trying to grapple with Keith's logic are advised to take an aspirin and lie down in a darkened room.


Jac o' the North, said...

'Welsh' Labour has played a very clever, or dirty - depending on your position - game with Llanelli hospital. It insinuated itself into the protests against downgrading, making many of the protesters believe that the downgading was being planned by them wicked Tories up in Lundun. So successful was this deception that it resulted in Labour gaining seats in Llanelli at the last council elections.

I don't wish to come across as harsh or unkind in my judgements (you know me), but if people are that bloody stupid then they deserve all they get.

Anonymous said...

Where was This Keith guy when the A and E at Carmarthen was getting built. A.M or not he didnt try to stop a new unit getting built.
What did he think it was for growing coconuts and what is he doing about a 8.5 million pound parking fiasco on a very dodgy so called contract that cant be got out of .

Anonymous said...

Llaneli has been let down by its local politicians, its senior dotors and the well paid health service management. Since 1999, the first merger of Llanelli/Dinefwr trust with Carmarthenshire,it is Prince Philip hospital which has been repeatedly asset stripped to finance other hospitals in the area. Senior doctors have been happy to join forces and work less onerous hours by centralizing acute services in Carmarthen and the Health board has been happy to downgrade Llanelli services safe in the knowledge that many people in East Carmarthenshire will go to the nearest proper emergency hospital, Morriston, saving the Hywel Dda Health Board a shed load of money by dumping the sick on someone else.
The Llanelli hospital is unsafe if you are seriously ill. Its been run down for years and has no back up on site if you need specialist services. Neither Plaid nor Labour have been able to save the hospital from plunder and the new minister has been presented with no choice at all except to make the only decision possible, to officially downgrade what used to be a district general hospital to the cottage hospital it has truly become.
As a former Consultant at the hospital I am really disappointed but it is the internal politics and greed of the medical profession and health service management which has out witted and out maneuvered the local politicians and local pressure groups. llanelli means nothing to them, their inflated salaries and private practices mean everything.
Again, it is money and power held by undemocratic institutions and greedy rich people who win the day. Llanelli is expendable.
The current minister is not to blame personally, but because of the long term failure of the Labout Welsh Government to have its own health policy relevant to a small dispersed population and a small country.
The English Models policed by the Royal Colleges and the national medical and health management associations are not suitable for a small country. According to our UK Royal colleges, for instance, Iceland, pop 300,000, does not "qualify" for one all singing and dancing hospital with full A&E and back up services. The whole of Wales should only have one top grade A&E for 3 million people. If most of your population live in cities, like England, you can get away with it.
Llanelli has a big problem. Its not seen to be important enough for anyone other than local politicians to care and they, clearly, for years have had no influence on their own parties. Even when Helen Mary Jones said Acute surgery would only leave PPH over her dead body there was clearly no support for her in her own party or the coalition of which she was a member. They were happy to hang her out to dry on the issues of protecting the local hospital. To them, Llanelli people and politicians clearly don't matter.
Well, I'm afraid the down gradings are not going to stop, the recession is not over and if we want universal free health care for everyone, all the politicians need to think differently and act quickly or the future of health care looks very bleak for all of us.We already don't live as long as the English and our lives may get a lot shorter if this medical imperialism is allowed a free hand.

Cllr Sian Caiach
People first County councillor for Hengoed Ward, Llanelli.