Patient safety row as Plaid and Labour clash before Bronglais Hospital protest
Published: 29th Feb 2012 09:10:58
A row over patient safety has broken out between Plaid Cymru and the Labour Welsh government ahead of a protest by hospital campaigners.
Plaid said lives were being put at risk with plans "to move life-saving services further away from patients".
But the health minister disputed that and accused Plaid of "dangerous scaremongering".
Campaigners who fear services could be cut at Aberystwyth's Bronglais Hospital will protest at the Senedd, Cardiff.
Concerns have been raised by senior staff at Bronglais Hospital that services could be moved to West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen.
Ahead of the protest, Plaid Cymru health spokesperson and Ceredigion AM Elin Jones cited research by the Medical Care Research Unit at the University of Sheffield.
It investigated the relationship between distance to hospital and patient mortality in emergencies.
Plaid said the research concluded that "increased journey distance to hospital appears to be associated with increased risk of mortality".
It is important that people have access to life-saving services within a safe distance of their homes”
Plaid claimed the Welsh government had given the go-ahead to local health boards to bring forward plans that downgraded hospitals and centralised core services.
Ms Jones said: "It is important that people have access to life-saving services within a safe distance of their homes, but under Labour's centralisation plans, services are to be moved further away.
"The added risk to patients' safety is extremely concerning, and it's something that Labour responded to when they gave assurances that they would not downgrade hospitals during the election campaign."
A spokesperson for Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said the Welsh government did not "intend to see the downgrading of any health services in Wales".
You'd be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu over today's events.
Patients with placards on the steps of the Senedd are not a new phenomenon.
The last attempts at hospital reorganisation in 2006 resulted in similar scenes - with busloads arriving from as far afield as Llandudno, Haverfordwest and Builth Wells.
Ultimately those demonstrations led to the most controversial plans being ditched, and today's campaigners will hope to yield similar results.
But the need for modernisation hasn't gone away - the status quo, according to the Welsh government, is not an option.
This time around the stakes have been raised by the disquiet of so many doctors.
Earlier this month 50 senior medics from Bronglais signed a letter to say they had lost all confidence in their health board.
That clearly undermines the theory hospital reorganisation in 2012 will be driven by clinicians, not accountants.
The spokesperson added: "It's our intention to improve the NHS.
"That's why local health boards across Wales are currently in listening mode, to establish how services can be improved, to make them safe, sustainable, effective and as near to home as possible in the years ahead.
"To suggest that life-saving services are to be moved further away as a matter of fact is at best disingenuous, at worst untrue dangerous scaremongering."
The Welsh government challenged Plaid Cymru to "produce the evidence or stop scaring people".
Following exchanges about Bronglais during first minister's questions on Tuesday, Carwyn Jones released a statement saying there were no plans to close or downgrade the hospital.
"Our commitment to Bronglais is clear - and reinforced by the £38m investment we have made in the hospital over the past few years," he said.
Bronglais serves Ceredigion, parts of Powys and south Gwynedd, and it is the only district general hospital in mid Wales.
To suggest that life-saving services are to be moved further away as a matter of fact is at best disingenuous, at worst untrue dangerous scaremongering”
Twelve buses and three mini buses from the region are bound for the Welsh capital on Wednesday.
Six buses and three student mini-buses are travelling from Aberystwyth, while others are leaving Aberaeron, Tregaron, Machynlleth and Llanidloes in Powys, and there will be two from Tywyn, Gwynedd.
A number of local politicians and campaigners will address the protesters outside the Senedd, and then they will then meet Mrs Griffiths for talks.
Ahead of the protest, Labour councillor and Aberystwyth mayor, Richard Boudier, said it was important the NHS evolved, but the health board's plans were both "life threatening and dangerous".
One of the campaigners, Peter Gardner, told BBC Radio Wales that cuts to hospitals services were already being made.
"Hywel Dda [health board] has already started the insidious downgrading of Bronglais," he said.
He is among the group due to meet with the health minister later.
Hywel Dda Health Board said no decisions had been made about the future of Bronglais.
The protest follows a meeting in Aberystwyth on 10 February attended by nearly 550 people who supported a motion to reject Hywel Dda Health Board's plans.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Patient safety row as Plaid and Labour clash before Bronglais Hospital protest [Online] (Updated 29th Feb 2012)
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