Watchdog fears extra demand on Morriston Hospital's A&E unit
A HEALTH watchdog has warned that Morriston Hospital will become swamped with patients if the A&E department in Bridgend is closed.
It says Swansea people had not realised potential changes to services elsewhere would have knock-on implications that could directly affect them.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board is carrying out a public engagement exercise into its Changing For The Better programme, which could see big changes to the way health is delivered in this area.
As part of this exercise, it has organised a series of drop-in events across the board area, including Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
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But ABM Community Health Council members were told the turn-out for many of these had been extremely poor.
By way of contrast, there had been a much bigger response in Bridgend, where Princess of Wales Hospital could lose A&E under the wider South Wales Programme.
If that happens, its patients would have to go to another hospital, such as the Royal Glamorgan in Llantrisant.
CHC chairman Emrys Davies said: "What we are seeing is that the further west you go, the less interest there is.
"It's interesting, because if the South Wales Programme does come to fruition, the feeling I am picking up is that people will not want to go to Royal Glamorgan.
"They will either come this way (to Morriston) or carry on along the M4 the other way to Cardiff.
"That is the issue, and so people in Swansea will be affected if there is an increased level in A&E, which they don't appreciate at the moment."
The CHC will now ask ABM to consider holding a version of the drop-in events in hospital foyers.
This, they felt, would be more likely to attract comments from visitors and patients who had a vested interest in any possible hospital changes.
They also predicted there could more be greater public interest after the engagement for Changing For The Better (C4B) and the South Wales Programme ended next month and actual proposals start to emerge.
The biggest potential biggest change in this area would see the shifting of all services for mums and babies from Singleton across the city to Morriston.
Under the South Wales Programme, Morriston will be guaranteed regional hospital status, meaning it will offer the full range of specialties.
Whether Princess of Wales retains A&E and other key services depends on whether it too is given regional designation.
An ABMU spokeswoman said: "If these changes do go ahead there will be additional pressure on Morriston anyway as it will be a regional hospital.
"We are already considering, as part of C4B, what services we can move from Morriston to other hospitals such as Singleton and Neath Port Talbot, which would help reduce that pressure."
However, she said, it was not just about which hospital provided what services, as the C4B had to be considered in its entirety.
"A great deal of emphasis will be placed on improving services in the community," she added.
"The idea is to provide care early on to prevent as many people as possible reaching crisis point where they have to be admitted into hospital. Over time that is going to make a huge difference in terms of reducing the pressure on hospitals."