Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Rhondda health services

Plaid Cymru in the Rhondda last night (25th October) held an open meeting to discuss local health services. The long term future of the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) is under threat at the new hospital in Llwynypia, having been closed on a 'temporary' basis. The out-of-hours GP service is also under threat.

The meeting was well attended with representatives from Rhondda over-50s forums as well as councillors of both political shades and health service workers, including trades union representatives. There was agreement that a strong and united campaign was needed to protect our local health services and to stop further centralisation. We agreed to ask for the Chief Executive of the Health Authority to attend a public meeting to outline the plans for health services in the Rhondda as part of a campaign to save our local services.

Permanent closure of the MIU at Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda would have drastic knock-on effects. In the meeting we were told by a paramedic how local ambulance services are struggling now, regularly having to get back-up from Cardiff and elsewhere due to low cover in the Rhondda. A&E at the Royal Glamorgan will see longer waits. Nurses told us how other departments will be run-down in Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda as many currently serve the MIU and will have their work diverted to the Royal Glamorgan. Their feeling was that the MIU had been allowed to run down over time - firstly by closing over Christmas periods, then closing on Saturdays, then reducing opening hours during the week and closing at 4pm instead of 5pm.

Concerns have been expressed to me about the MIU for well over a year. I have raised the issue on numerous occasions in the Assembly and with officials from the Health Authority. I have been told that there have been recruitment problems but that there are 'no plans' to close the MIU at Llwynypia Hospital.

When the First Minister opened Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda just last October, he vowed to protect from any potential cuts, telling Rhondda Plaid Cymru protestors who were calling for guarantees for the future of the MIU - “It is a fairly new facility and we want to make sure that facilities intended to be here are kept here”.

We all understand that budgets have been cut and that public services need to change. However, the health service belongs to the people. Changes should not be made in secret. The Health Authority should publish their plans for any changes to services to allow people to have a say on those plans. Front-line services must be protected and that includes services in our new local hospital. Otherwise, it'll be people with already pressed incomes who will have to fork out more on travel, paying the price for a financial crisis that was caused by a bunch of bankers and their friends, who continue to live the life of Riley.

There are numerous petitions circulating in the Rhondda calling for our local health services to remain. We will shortly be announcing details of a public meeting and a march through the Rhondda. If you value you local health services, please get involved in our campaign.

Leanne Wood

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member

South Wales Central

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