The lives of Amman Valley residents will be put at risk by the downgrading of Accident and Emergency services in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire county council has been told.
Speaking at today’s (Wednesday) full council meeting, Councillor Glynog Davies, who represents Quarter Bach, told members that reduced A and E services at Prince Phillip Hospital would mean patients requiring emergency treatment faced potentially life-threatening extended travelling times to West Wales General Hospital – Glangwili in Carmarthen.
“Imagine the time it takes (from an outlying village such as Ystradowen) to bring people – as a matter of emergency – to Carmarthen,” Cllr Davies told a highly-charged chamber.
“We are not talking about normal day-to-day services; we are talking about emergency services where people have to get there quickly.
“This is a matter of life and death.”
Cllr Davies told members that a meeting of Amman Valley councillors had expressed grave concerns over the issue of extended travel times.
“What troubles us most are the roads,” he said. “It is a slow road.”
Tempers flared in the chamber as Cllr Peter Hughes-Griffiths tabled a motion calling for the council to declare a vote of no confidence in Welsh Assembly health minister Mark Drakeford, who recently announced plans to downgrade the current A and E service in Llanelli to a nurse-led unit.
An amendment to the motion, submitted by Labour deputy leader Tegwen Devichand, watered down criticism of the minister and replaced the vote of no confidence with a council pledge to continue lobbying Cardiff Bay for the decision to be reversed.
However, Cllr Hughes-Griffiths and his Plaid Cymru colleagues accused the Labour-Independent coalition of “lacking back-bone” and “failing the people of Carmarthenshire”.
Plaid’s Alun Lenny said: “The people of Carmarthenshire have put their trust in the Labour Party – the party of Nye Bevan. They have put their trust in men of straw.
“The downgrading of Llanelli will only put more pressure on Glangwili.
“One day last summer, there were eight ambulances waiting outside Glangwili to unload patients: ninety-three people had to wait more than 24 hour in A and E.
That view was echoed by Llangennech councillor Gwyneth Thomas, herself a nurse in Llanelli for 20 years.
“This is the worst news I have had,” she said.
“Yesterday (Tuesday, October 8), there was 16 patients waiting for a bed in the unit. They were filling back into A and E where every bed was full, two people were waiting in the waiting room and six ambulances were waiting outside to unload their patients.
“I am genuinely concerned.
“We are not asking for a Rolls-Royce service. We just want the same as they have in Glangwili, in ~Withybush (Haverfordwest) and in Bronglais (Aberystwyth).
Unaffiliated independent councillor Sian Caiach claimed the downgrading had been supported by the Hywel Dda Health Board as it would see many Llanelli patients travelling to Morriston Hospital, Swansea, rather than Carmarthen thereby “offloading” Hywel Dda’s responsibilities “to another health board”.
However, Labour’s Llandybie councillor Anthony Jones urged members to “look at the big picture”.
“We now have paramedics and we have First Responders,” he said. “In terms of the health service, everything is changing.”
“We are not the experts. We can raise our concerns but we must be guided by the professionals.”
Cllr Jones’ view that the amendment allowed the council to continue a dialogue with the Assembly over services was supported by council leader Kevin Madge.
“I do not believe this is the end,” said Cllr Madge. “As far as I am concerned, the fight goes on.
“We will carry on making representations to the government and to the ministers. We will hold the Labour government to account.
“At the end of the day we have got to make sure our services are safe.”
The council voted by 33 to 24 to adopt Cllr Devishand’s amendment calling on the minister and the health board to review the decision.