Neath Port Talbot Hospital's acute service removal 'a change too far for staff'
A VETERAN health worker and campaigner has slammed the loss of acute medical services at Neath Port Talbot Hospital as a change too far for staff and a no-win situation for residents.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board non-officer member Sandra Miller said the hospital, and Neath General Hospital before it, had been systematically run down year after year and would now become a five-day-a-week hospital.
Mrs Miller, a unionist, hospital worker and Neath Port Talbot councillor, was speaking as ABM board members agreed to urgency action to end the emergency medical service at Neath Port Talbot Hospital effective from September.
Board chief executive Paul Roberts said the intention had been to include it in the ABM-wide review of long-term future services called Changing For The Better.
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"But the circumstances mean we have to bring this proposal here today as an urgent change," he said.
"We have had strong advice from senior doctors that it would be unsafe to continue this service much beyond the beginning of August.
"I'm sure board members will agree that safety has to be our top concern and if that advice has been received and has been tested, then that is advice we have to listen to."
Chief operating officer Alex Howells said: "Medical staffing issues aren't specific to this service and this site. We are seeing a number of these issues affecting a number of our services across a number of our sites."
Mrs Howells described at length ABM's search to find suitable doctors to maintain the Neath Port Talbot service.
That followed a decision by the Wales Deanery (responsible for postgraduate doctor training) to move CT2 doctors, which ran the acute medical service, to other hospitals more suitable for training.
The search, which included a recruitment visit to Dubai, ultimately failed to find sufficient suitable doctors. In fact, said Mrs Howells, only five were available when the minimum needed was eight and the recommended number was 10-12.
"The decision had to be made about whether having five out of the minimum eight we needed to run a really important service was something we felt was sustainable and safe," she said.
"I felt I had to advise the chief executive that we had really exhausted all our options we had set out to consider. We really didn't have anywhere else to go and needed to make this urgent service change."
Mrs Miller, though, said: "Neath Port Talbot Hospital and Neath General Hospital have been systematically run down over the years. That has impacted on the people and on the staff as well."
She said the services being introduced there were only those that were taken away years ago, and Neath Port Talbot would now become a five-day-a-week hospital.
"I see no pluses," added Mrs Miller. She also had concerns about whether the ambulance service could cope with taking more people to other hospitals, and the availability of public transport.
"It's a no-win for the people of Neath Port Talbot," she said. "Staff have been used to change. They've coped with it. But this is going to be a change too far for them."