Chief raises hopes for 24-hour A&E unit’s future

THE head of the organisation overseeing changes to the region’s hospitals has given the strongest hint yet that the Princess of Wales will keep its 24/7 emergency unit.

Rumours have been rife in recent months that the shakeup being undertaken by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) could lead to a scaling-down of Bridgend’s flagship hospital’s AE department to a 9am to 5pm operation.

But after months of silence ABMU chairman Win Griffiths OBE gave the board’s firmest reassurance to date on Friday, saying he was “fairly sure” a 24/7 AE provision would remain at the Bridgend hospital.

Speaking at a meeting of over-50s campaign group Porthcawl Shout, Mr Griffiths said: “I am fairly sure I can say that there will be a 24/7 [AE] service in Bridgend.


“What I cannot say is that it will be exactly the same as it is now.

“But I am fairly sure there will be a 24/7 service there.”

Mr Griffiths’ vote of confidence will come as some comfort to emergency staff and patients, who were concerned about the possibility of having to travel to Cardiff or Morriston Hospital in Swansea for AE care.

A source working at PoW, who asked not to be named, said: “If that place shut there would be lives lost, it’s as simple as that.

“You have got 40,000 people in Bridgend, 18,000 in Maesteg and 16,000 in Porthcawl all reliant on that unit – it’s absolutely chocca.”

After Friday’s meeting Gary Victor, chairman of Porthcawl Shout, said: “The accident and emergency provision remaining at Princess of Wales is considered of paramount importance to all older people.

“Mr Griffiths gave a strong indication that he fully understood and would be expecting a retention of these services.”

Health boards across South Wales are currently consulting with clinicians on changes to services – including AE, obstetrics and paediatrics – as part of the Welsh Government’s five-year Together for Health plan.

Last week ABMU decided to end acute medical services at Neath Port Talbot Hospital on September 1 because of a lack of suitable doctors to run it safely.

Mr Griffiths said he thought the changes would result in “four or five” specialist emergency units across south Wales providing “high quality, best possible services”. He said he was “fairly sure” PoW in Bridgend would be home to one of them.

ABMU said they will unveil their draft proposals later this month for public consultation, before producing a plan for the minister in October.

Phil Williams, chief officer of the patients’ representative group Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Community Health Council (CHC), said: “The CHC has been reassured by the health board that there are no plans to downgrade the hospital (PoW) and the CHC welcomes and accepts this.”

Mr Williams added that some changes were to be expected at all of ABMU’s hospitals to deal with “fragile” services resulting from doctor shortages.

Staff at PoW fear that despite Mr Griffiths’ AE reassurances, other services may end up leaving the hospital.

“Rumours have been rife amongst staff,” said the hospital source.“Lots are worried about obstetrics and midwifery and that paediatrics will go.

“Staff morale is awful because more and more is expected of them and there is lots of uncertainty at the same time.”

Liberal Democrat regional AM Peter Black, who met with health bosses to voice his fears over possible downgrades last week, said: “There is a huge amount of uncertainty about the future of key services all across the ABMU area and this needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

“Staff and patients cannot continue in the shadow of rumours and half-assurances for much longer.”

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