BATTLE THAT UNITED TOWN
THE fight to save A&E services at Prince Philip Hospital has been a long and hard-fought battle that brought the town together.
It began back in November 2011, when Lovain Roberts, one of two community health council representatives, quit her post after seeing plans for the hospital.
She warned that residents had a "hell of a fight on their hands" ahead of the release of a document detailing proposals for the hospital.
And fight they did
Proposals a month later revealed that the hospital was set to lose its accident and emergency department under plans to reorganise health services in Hywel Dda.
Health board bosses presented three options for the delivery of emergency care across the region — none of which include an A&E at Prince Philip Hospital.
The options considered a major emergency department at either Glangwili or Withybush — more than 50 miles from Llanelli — or in Glangwili, Withybush and Bronglais.
In all three scenarios, Llanelli would be left with an urgent care centre, which director of clinical services Phil Kloer said wouldn't be a "vast change" to the current service.
It led senior members of hospital staff, former patients, doctors and retired surgeons to speak out against the plans, including Hugh Evans who warned lives would be put at risk.
The options were put to the public, and campaigners worked day and night, spreading the word about the changes on the cards for PPH — including the potential replacement of its A&E with a nurse-led urgent care centre.
They organised rallies outside Prince Philip Hospital with placards reading "Don't rip the heart out of our hospital" and "No more cuts".
But perhaps the feeling of the town was best made clear to Hywel Dda Health Board and the Welsh Government when a 24,000 name petition to protect services at the hospital was delivered by protesters to the Senedd.
It was the largest petition ever received by the Assembly's petitions committee — showing the strength of feeling over the vital services in the town.
They continued their fight through the consultation process, stating the board's preferred option — to provide a consultant-led emergency medical admission unit and a nurse-led local accident centre for minor injuries and illnesses was a "slap in the face" for Llanelli.
And just days before the end of the process, a team of 10 physicians from the hospital spoke out anonymously attacking the plans on the grounds of patient safety.
But in January this year, the health board passed its final recommendation for change at St David's Hospital in Carmarthen, revealing the hospital would no longer have an A&E unit.
The board agreed unanimously to press on with plans to replace current services with a doctor supported nurse-delivered unit.
Board members insisted they had taken all views into account, presenting a new proposal to allow a "clinically-led group to redesign an unscheduled care service for Prince Philip Hospital and the Llanelli community".
But chairman of the region's community health council, Tony Wales was not satisfied, and insisted service shake-up plans were referred to the Health Minister a month later.
In an official referral letter, Mr Wales argued the move was "deemed unacceptable and not in the best interests of patients and the public".