Doctor shortage will stop treatment for emergency patients
EMERGENCY medical patients will not be treated in Neath Port Talbot Hospital from September because of a crisis in recruiting doctors.
It follows a decision by the Wales Deanery, which is responsible for postgraduate doctor training, to move medics from the hospital to "more suitable training environments" in August.
Health chiefs said they had to make changes to provide a safe service on the advice of senior doctors and emphasised they were not closing the hospital.
But Councillor Tony Taylor, whose Aberavon ward includes the hospital, said: "This confirms what we have been saying for the last couple of years — that it is being downgraded to a cottage hospital.
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"We want medical emergencies here, we want full A&E and we want a fully-functioning hospital."
Neath MP Peter Hain added: "I am extremely disturbed by this.
"Frankly it is simply not good enough to plead as an excuse that the recruitment of doctors is impossible — they need to go out and get them, if not in Britain then overseas."
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said the Wales Deanery had decided to reallocate CT2 doctors — the most senior doctors responsible for the care of acutely unwell medical patients.
"Without these doctors the safety and care of acute patients is compromised to the degree that it is not safe for these patients to stay in hospital," said a spokeswoman.
"The health board moved swiftly to identify alternative ways to staff these medical posts to provide both a short and full term replacement in sufficient quality and number.
"We undertook an international recruitment campaign and also developed a new role to appoint academic research doctors to encourage more applicants.
"Unfortunately, despite these efforts, we have not been able to appoint enough doctors needed for a safe service." ABM's Changing for the Better programme is considering the future model of all its clinical services to ensure they are safe and sustainable.
The board said it would have liked to have avoided making service changes at Neath Port Talbot Hospital until the process ended in December.
"However, given the current difficulties and the need to ensure safety for patients, we need to consider making these changes at an earlier stage," said the spokeswoman.
A report on the situation at Neath Port Talbot will be presented to board members on Thursday but in the meantime it has emphasised the hospital will not close.
"It will continue to play an important role in delivering clinical services within the health board, and we will continue to develop plans to improve and extend services at the Neath Port Talbot site as part of the Changing for the Better process.
"The health board also wishes to reassure staff that there will be no job losses as a result of this change," said the spokeswoman.