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Listen to us or ‘kids will die’

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swatTHE SAVE WITHYBUSHT ACTION  TEAM (SWAT) descended on Cardiff in full force this week in the continued campaign to save our fantastic local hospital. 

Ten coaches and over a 1000 people arrived at the Senedd in our capital city on a gloriously sun drenched summer’s day. The desperate fight to keep essential services and funding at Withybush Hospital has been further accentuated after figures last week from The Nuffield Trust predicted demand on the NHS will outstrip the money it receives by 2025, and that the NHS in Wales is facing a £2.5bn funding gap over the next 10 years. In the short term, the Nuffield Trust said the NHS faced a challenging funding gap of £200 million in just the next two years. On board the coaches were many residents of Pembrokeshire who have had direct experience of how the hospital has helped them, and featured in their lives, and there were many parents of children travelling to Cardiff that demanded their voice be heard. One of the protesters was a Pembrokeshire mother who lost more than half her blood when the birth of her daughter went terribly wrong. Emily Holden thought she would never see her family again as Withybush doctors raced to save her life. She explained how she had ‘pushed’ when she shouldn’t have which resulted in severe bleeding, losing two and a half litres of blood in the process. Her Husband Christian was left holding the newborn baby as his wife faced potential death. She explained how she felt as all this was going on: “At that time I calmed down and accepted I was going to go. I was becoming more non-responsive. I was aware things were bad but I was slowing down and I had gone grey”. Emily ‘was fading away’ but Withybush and its facilities, medics and staff saved her life. At the protest, Ruth Howells, a retired consultant gynaecologist who worked at Withybush Hospital, addressed the crowd about the problems with the Health Board’s plans, saying: “I’m worried about the journey times in an emergency. No one is even talking about the extra travel costs for the patients and their f a m i l i e s . It is a disastrous move to c l o s e Withybush services. I can’t understand how the people who have made these plans can countenance between a 1 and 2 hour journey time for people who may be in dire emergencies.”

A DOCTOR’S VIEW 

Local Paediatrician, Gustavo Falco, said: “We need a 24 hour paediatric service in Pembrokeshire because of the geography. Travelling is difficult, especially in an emergency from the western coast to Carmarthen. It’s not on. If a child has a cardiac arrest there is no way that child is going to be alive by the time they get to Carmarthen.”

POLITICIANS SUPPORT THE PROTEST 

Liberal Democrat, Eluned Parrott AM, told the protesters and reporters that the lack of ambulances in Wales is ‘disgusting’, and ‘it’s an issue that affects everyone in Wales’. Simon Hart, MP for Pembrokeshire South, told The Herald that he had seen the pictures of the protest online and said it was a ‘great effort by Pembrokeshire people to unite and have their voices heard’. He went on to question Mark Drakeford’s tenure, saying ‘he must be thick skinned not to question his own judgement on this issue, and are thousands of Pembrokeshire people wrong and just one Minister only is right?’ He further suggested that Mr Drakeford’s own party did not really support him on this issue and that the Minister should take a good look in the mirror and try and convince himself that it is ‘ok’. This viewpoint seemed to be supported by Delyth Evans, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for South Pembrokeshire, who told The Herald: “After today’s demonstration there can be no doubt in the minds of the Welsh Government about the strength of feeling in Pembrokeshire about the proposed changes at Withybush. There is only one way to alleviate people’s legitimate concerns about the future of their local health services. The Minister must make an unequivocal statement that no changes will be implemented until adequate emergency transport is in place, and that there will be no further reduction in essential services at Withybush, whatsoever. We cannot accept a gradual reduction of our local health service by stealth. There has to be a commitment to maintain a fully functioning hospital for the people of Pembrokeshire.” Another Labour politician, Derek Vaughan MEP, refused to comment saying it was a matter for the Welsh Government Minister. However, Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, Rebecca Evans stated: “To have such a big turn-out at the Senedd shows just how passionately people in Pembrokeshire care about their hospital. That message came over loud and clear. Everyone is agreed that the over-riding concern has to be about the safety and sustainability of health services. Whilst we cannot ignore the requirement of the Wales Deanery and the Royal Colleges, I have been clear all along that there must be no change until the ‘safety net’ is fully in place – including the provisions to address the significant transport challenges.” Paul Miller, Parliamentary candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, made his position clear in relation to The Welsh Minister, saying to The Herald: “The people of Pembrokeshire showed on Wednesday just how strongly they feel here about the proposed changes to our hospital. People are rightly concerned that because of our geography they will not be able to access centralised services in an emergency and the Minister must pledge today, not to allow Hywel Dda to implement any changes whatever, unless he is 100% satisfied that adequate emergency transport is available. While I do accept, that in some instances patient outcomes can be improved when services are centralised, local hospitals will always remain the first port of call in an Emergency. We cannot accept a gradual reduction of our local services by stealth and Withybush Hospital must always remain a fully functioning District General Hospital. I have made clear to the Minister, on both occasions when we have met this year, that I will vigorously oppose any moves which reduce the current, 24/7 A&E cover at Withybush General Hospital and I will never accept that any less than a 24 hour service is safe for the residents of Pembrokeshire”.

QUESTIONS TO THE HEALTH MINISTER  

The Herald asked Mark Drakeford, Health Minister, and his office for a comment regarding the protest to which they simply responded by saying: “We have no comment – it is a matter for the Health Board.” However, a statement was released by the Minister to the protesting crowd which read: “Firstly, let me make it clear that provision of high quality safe maternity services in Wales is a priority for the Welsh Government. The strategic vision for maternity services in Wales published September 2011 states the foundations for health and well being start in pregnancy. The months before and after birth are crucial to the life chances of the mother. We know the health and happiness of future generations can be enhanced with the provision of high quality maternity services and pregnancy is a powerful motivator for change. Pregnancy impacts on health and well being on individuals and communities. It is vitally important that efforts to ensure mother and child are safe and healthy well before birth. The strategic vision sets out the results we want for women and their babies through pregnancy and childbirth as well as our expectations of NHS Wales in delivering maternity services that make a real difference to families in Wales. For every mother wherever they live and in whatever circumstances, pregnancy and childbirth will be a safe and positive experience so a family can begin parenting feeling confident, capable and well supported of giving their child a secure start in life. Continuous improvements are being made to maternity services.” Local Assembly Member Paul Davies joined the crowds outside the Senedd to voice concerns over threats to services at Withybush hospital. He said: “Once again, the people of Pembrokeshire have come to the Assembly to send their message loud and clear. We in Pembrokeshire already have to travel further afield for specialist treatment; forcing us to travel further afield for lifesaving care and emergency services, will put lives at risk. I’m appalled that the Welsh Government and the local health board have decided to proceed with these catastrophic plans. I’m pleased that so many people made the trip to Cardiff – showing that we will not go down without a fight. I’m thankful that they have taken the time to travel down from Pembrokeshire. For my part, I will keep raising this issue in the Assembly Chamber with the Minister at every opportunity and I will continue to lobby to reverse these decisions. The message is clear: Services at Withybush hospital must stay put!”

SWAT ORGANISER SPEAKS OUT 

Chris Overton, a consultant at Withybush and leading the SWAT protest, was asked about how the protest could make a difference: “We have just got to keep trying. There is no point just sitting back and letting them make these disastrous services changes. We need to have the services they are trying to take away, kept in Pembrokeshire because otherwise people will die. From the 6th August there will be no difficult deliveries (at Withybush). So instead of 1300 deliveries there will be 100. 1200 will have to go to Llangwilly. There are significant problems getting there quickly and lives are at risk, particularly small babies.” He was challenged with the Health Minister’s assertion that services have to be centralised, to which he responded, “We don’t disagree and we think services should be centralised in Withybush, because it makes perfect sense. You have to take everything in the round. You have to include the ABMU Health Board as well, and the three logical centres would be, Morriston South, Bronglais and Withybush. The protest ends today, then there is the judicial review next week and we are very hopeful. we have a very good chance, good witness statements, a good argument and we are hoping we are going to win.” On the subject of centralisation, Mark Drakeford’s view seems to be diametrically opposed to that of NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, who has said that the NHS must ‘end mass centralisation and instead expand its local services to treat people in their own communities’. Liberal Democrat Eluned Parrott AM told the crowd about the lack of ambulances available; stating that it’s an issue that is affecting everyone in Pembrokeshire. She made clear that this was, ‘politically driven and NOT clinically driven.’ Pembrokeshire Councillor David Lloyd addressed the crowd and spoke gravely of the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge in 1970, which killed four workmen, reminding the protesters that in fact there was no hospital within Pembrokeshire and therefore any victims had to be driven to Carmarthen. He continued by saying that the coroner who dealt with the workmen’s death stated that carrying critical ill people long distances had resulted in deaths.

MATERNITY ‘A HIGH PRIORITY’ SAYS WAG 

A statement was released, at the protest, from the Welsh Government who said: “Maternity is a high priority within the Welsh Government. Continuous improvements are being made to maternity services within Pembrokeshire’. This was met with derision from the crowd who began to chant ‘Shame’, and, ‘Drakeford out!’ William Powell, Regional Minister, continued to address the crowd, claiming that the Welsh Government are in fact looking into the judicial review and that he is personally dealing with it. He argued that, ‘Clinical safety is the key!’ Pembrokeshire Alliance leader, Bob Kilmister, told The Herald: “The Pembrokeshire Alliance fully supports the protestors who went to the Senedd today to protest over the proposed service cuts at Withybush hospital. I hope Welsh Government takes notice of the massive concern shown by the people of Pembrokeshire about these cuts to our health service. It is extremely disappointing that the Health Minister refused to talk to SWAT representatives and I deplore this kind of arrogance. Politicians should front up and face the public and not hide away in meetings.”

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[VIDEO] Man who stayed at leisure centre overnight escorted out by police

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A MAN who stayed overnight at Pembroke Leisure Centre and filmed his actions, before posting them on Facebook, was led away by police.

Pembrokeshire County Council say the incident happened last week on February 8.

The videos were posted on Facebook last night (Feb 14).

Warning: Strong language in the videos

Dubbing the action an ‘overnight challenge’, John Brunton can be seen in the videos dedicated his actions to the ‘love of his life’, before stripping down to his boxer shorts.

He then proceeds to climb over an internal gate and removes the pool cover before jumping in and swimming around.

A video posted later on shows Mr Brunton claiming that blue flashing lights are outside the building and he anticipates the police arresting him.

In a final video, Mr Brunton is filming two police officers, which he says is for his own safety as he fears they would attack him, before being led out of the leisure centre.

The videos have received hundreds of likes and shares on the social media site.

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Strike action at Port cancelled

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THE PORT OF MILOFRD HAVEN and Unite the Union have jointly announced that their discussions have concluded, and all industrial action has ceased.

The dispute related to concerns regarding the creation of a two-tier workforce.

Both parties are pleased to have come to an agreement.

Unite, its members employed at the Port and management at the Port of Milford Haven have engaged in ‘constructive dialogue’ which the Port says they look forward to continuing into the future.

Andy Jones, Interim Chief Executive at the Port of Milford Haven said: “As of 1500hrs today the Port resumed normal operations. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers and wider stakeholders for their constructive support during this episode.”

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80-year-old hit by car in supermarket car park

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses, following a report a woman was hit by a car in Morrisons car park, Haverfordwest, just after 11am yesterday (February 14).

It was reported that a woman, aged in her 80s, was hit by a black car near the entrance of the store.

She was taken to hospital with slight injuries.

Anyone who was in the area at the time, or saw anything, is urged to contact PC 198 Robb by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20190214-107

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