Health proposal sparks fear of cutbacks in ops
HYWEL Dda health board has announced plans which could see no non-emergency orthopaedic surgery carried out this winter.
While emergency operations will continue to take place, the health board said that moves to halt elective surgery was to cope with the extra demands placed on the NHS during the winter months.
The decision, which covers all four Hywel Dda hospitals, including Prince Philip in Llanelli and Glangwili in Carmarthen, has prompted an angry response from public sector union, Unison.
Unison has claimed that the move will affect operations until next April, although the health board did not confirm this, with a spokeswoman saying the situation will be looked at again after the winter surge.
The spokeswoman added that patients affected were those who have yet to be given a date for an operation. Unison branch chairwoman, Wendy Evans, said: "The health board already has a waiting time of 15 months for patients awaiting orthopaedic surgery. This will clearly add at least another five to six months to their waiting time, causing further distress and possibly further complications to their condition."
Unison representatives have written to Health Minister, Mark Drakeford to complain about the decision. The letter explains that while the plans will affect the communities across the Hywel Dda area, they will be of particular concern to the people of Llanelli and the future of Prince Philip Hospital at Llanelli. Mrs Evans said Prince Philip Hospital was the centre for elective orthopaedic operations in Carmarthenshire.
Dr Phil Kloer, director of clinical services, explained that the health board could not cope with a repeat of the pressures it came under last winter.
He said: "In past years, there have been too many operations cancelled at the last minute due to emergency admissions. In previous winters, we had up to 160 additional beds in place often being managed by temporary staff. This is not a position we can sustain this year.
"To address this, we propose to manage our bed stock and elective surgical lists in a better way during the busiest months this winter to ensure we have the staff capacity to manage emergencies and the most urgent patients. We would like to reassure patients that if they have an urgent clinical need they will be seen. Emergency and cancer procedures, the vast majority of orthopaedic day surgery and other elective procedures will also continue."
Unison claimed that, although the plans were said not to involve redundancies, staff have only been given one month's notice to seek redeployment pending the cancellation of the service.