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Hospital wards closed due to safety concerns set to reopen by Christmas

17 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Withybush Hospital. Photo Lisa Wilson

Three of the six wards at Withybush Hospital which were closed in August due to the presence of the dangerous building material Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) are expected to be re-opened by Christmas.

Hywel Dda University Health Board declared an internal major incident at the Pembrokeshire hospital three months ago in order to identify the scale and impact of the RAAC found in the hospital building.

This resulted in the closure of half of the hospital’s 12 wards along with areas on the ground floor and kitchen, including outpatients and clinic rooms.

Ward 9 at the hospital in Haverfordwest has already reopened and cardiac patients are being returned to its 14-beds. Ward 12 is due to re-open in mid-November. Ward 7 is expected to be ready for the return of patients by the end of December.

Work has already begun on the groundworks for the new field kitchen which is expected to be up and running by December 4.

The kitchen is currently out of bounds with an interim food service for patients operating from the restaurant dining area, with limited takeaway food available for staff.

Day Surgery treatments restarted in earlier this month although elective inpatient surgery at the hospital is operating at a lower level while repair work continues.

Remedial work on the remaining wards is expected to be completed by the end of March 2024 with work on ground floor locations, including the kitchen and outpatients’ area, expected to continue until Spring 2025.

Essential repairs

Director of Operations Andrew Carrurthers said: “We are very pleased that the wards which were closed while we undertook essential repair work to the RAAC concrete planks are now either operating as normal or will be by Spring 2024.

“This has been a difficult time for staff as they have had to adapt very quickly to a fast-changing situation and in some cases have had to work at different locations within the health board. They have showed incredible teamwork and resilience during a very challenging time, so I would like to thank them for their support.

“We have tried to keep disruption to a minimum, but I know patients and members of the public have also been affected by the ongoing survey and repair work. Some have had to be treated at alternative locations within the health board area, so my thanks to them for their patience and understanding.

“Survey and repair work will continue until Spring 2025, so there is some way to go before Withybush hospital returns to a normal service. We will continue to engage with our staff, patients and the public and keep them informed of the latest development.”

RAAC was commonly used within the construction industry between the 1950s – mid 1990s. Its presence has been confirmed at Withybush hospital and at a limited part of Bronglais hospital. It has also been identified at a range of NHS properties and other public buildings such as schools, across the UK.

Earlier this year, the Health and Safety Executive has warned that RAAC is now beyond its lifespan and could collapse without notice.

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