Union arranges meetings over health changes
PUBLIC meetings into the massive changes coming in at Neath Port Talbot Hospital will be held next week.
Unison, which has organised the two meetings, is urging residents and health workers to attend and air their views.
It says it is not limited to workers at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, as staff at Morriston Hospital have also reported feeling under pressure since the switch took place.
A senior union official said one possible outcome was the formation of a people's campaign over the changes.
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Neath Port Talbot's acute medical services were switched to Swansea and Bridgend last month because Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board struggled to find enough qualified doctors to run it.
The majority of emergency medical cases from the Neath Port Talbot area now go to Morriston or Singleton instead.
A smaller proportion, around 20 per cent, go to the Princess of Wales in Bridgend.
Staff and beds from Neath Port Talbot have transferred to the other three hospitals.
However, patients who have had their initial treatment elsewhere will be able to recuperate at Neath Port Talbot if they are not well enough to be sent home directly.
"We have called the meetings to find out what the public and staff feel," said Unison's regional organiser Eddie Gabrielsen.
"We don't have a line on it at the moment but we are aware staff are feeling under pressure. It is having a knock-on effect in Morriston since everything moved.
"Staff are coming under pressure because of the additional throughput and because of staffing shortages.
"They (ABM) have cut back on overtime and agency workers, which we can understand, but staff say it is increasingly difficult to get holidays and there are major repercussions if there is any sickness."
The first meeting is on Tuesday in Neath's Castle Hotel, with the second being held in the Dalton Road Community Centre in Port Talbot's Sandfields estate next Thursday.
Both start at 7.30pm and will last around two hours.
Unison's ABM health branch, which is hosting the meetings, has invited Professor Tony Beddow of the Socialist Health Association and ABM chief executive Paul Roberts to attend.
Mr Gabrielsen said any resident and health worker was welcome to attend and air their views, regardless of whether they supported or opposed the situation at the hospital.
He said any concerns would be raised with the health board, and there was the possibility of a campaign focusing on the changes and the general provision of services.
"We would want the public to be involved rather than have it union-led," he added.
"We will kick-start it and then see where we are going."
Another linked change is the transfer of Cimla Hospital's intensive therapy Brynedd Ward to Neath Port Talbot.
This has led to fears that, with only the Glannant Ward for stroke patients left open, Cimla's future could now be in doubt.
Neath South councillor Peter Rees said: "I will be at Tuesday's meeting when I will be raising my concerns about Cimla."
ABM says Neath Port Talbot Hospital is not closing and will play an important role in future service provision. It has announced a series of new or expanded services at a cost of around £2 million in the coming months, with more following. However, no decision on Cimla has yet been made.