News in brief: Health board cancels urgent operations due to Covid pressures
Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board is cancelling urgent medical procedures due to the number of Covid patients currently requiring treatment.
The health board, which oversees three hospitals, Prince Charles in Merthyr Tydfil, Princess of Wales in Bridgend and the Royal Glamorgan in Rhondda Cynon Taf, reports that more than half its hospital patients have the virus and 74 patients have been admitted to Ysbyty Seren field hospital because of a shortage of beds.
Last month the board cancelled non-urgent procedures and issued a statement warning that hospitals and staff were under “unprecedented pressures”.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, Rhondda Cynon Taf currently has the highest proportion of Covid deaths in the UK at 283 per 100,000 since the start of the pandemic. Merthyr Tydfil is second highest second with 253.6.
The board’s medical director Nick Lyons told BBC Wales: “We are coping, but that’s coping because we’ve been cancelling urgent surgery.
“We even had to cancel some cancer surgery over the last few weeks,” Mr Lyons added.
“My heart goes out to families and to patients with all the stress and the worry that gives.
“It’s tough times and we’re all in it together, and we do see that that optimism that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel but it’s hard.”
Welsh NHS Chief Executive Andrew Goodall told reporters at yesterday’s press briefing that overall, 2,870 Covid patients were being treated in Welsh hospitals and 36% of all patients have Covid, twice the proportion of the previous peak in May.
Meanwhile, Public Health Wales has reported 54 deaths from Covid-19 and 1,644 new cases of the virus in today’s update.
Over the last 24 hours 21,637 people were vaccinated, taking the total to have received one dose in Wales to 112,973 since the roll-out began on 8 December.
Of the newly reported deaths, 18 were in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area, 11 in Swansea Bay and 10 in Aneurin Bevan. Six more were recorded in Betsi Cadwaladr, five in Cardiff and Vale and three in Hywel Dda.
Wrexham (202) again recorded the highest number of daily cases, followed by Cardiff (182) and Flintshire (147).
Wrexham continues to have the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 922.4 per 100,000 people, down from 970.9 yesterday. It also has the highest positive test proportion over the last seven days at 29.9% per 100,000 tests, down from 30.9% yesterday.
Minister criticised over vaccine roll-out briefing
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A council education spokeswoman is “frustrated” that Wales’ health minister said he couldn’t give details about vaccine roll-out because of a lack of supply, after it emerged Welsh Government had “hundreds of thousands” of doses.
Cllr Julie Fallon, Conwy county council’s cabinet member for education, said she and colleagues from other Welsh councils had been in a virtual meeting with Welsh Government on Wednesday last week when Vaughan Gething made the claim.
Speaking in the authority’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Fallon said it was “frustrating” to later find out there were “hundreds of thousands of vaccines waiting there without plans about where they should go”.
Council leader Cllr Sam Rowlands also said he was “disappointed” that the number of vaccine doses available was not revealed during three meetings with Welsh Government ministers last week.
Plans for the roll-out of the vaccine were stepped up on Monday after the First Minister revealed in a weekend interview that Wales actually had stocks of vaccines in the “low hundreds of thousands”.
Welsh Government later confirmed it had received more than 250,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 22,000 of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
Cllr Fallon said: “Vaughan Gething came in at the end and spoke about vaccinations.
“He really made it clear the reason they couldn’t share with us what was going to happen was because they didn’t have supply of the vaccine.
“(He said) that was the issue that was creating a hold up, so it’s frustrating to hear there were hundreds of thousands of vaccines waiting there without plans about where they should go.”
Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts, Denbighshire council’s lead member for education, was also at the meeting.
He confirmed Mr Gething had mentioned that vaccine supply was the reason firm roll-out plans couldn’t be shared with members.
Cllr Fallon also revealed she was concerned about care homes not getting the vaccine.
She said: “There are care homes which haven’t received an indication yet as to when the vaccinations are going to be rolled out to them.”
She added the longer they were left the more likely they were to become red (infected) homes, meaning vaccinations couldn’t take place there.
Cllr Fallon spoke in response to an urgent item brought up by Cllr Rowlands.
He said there had been “concerns about the pace of delivery” of the vaccine in North Wales and particularly in Conwy, a county which has the highest concentration of over-65s in Wales.
He added: “I was disappointed over the weekend to see the volume of vaccinations available not being used in a way we would like to see.
“I had three meetings with ministers last week in which vaccinations were discussed in various forms.
“Not once was it raised they have a significant amount of vaccines available and are perhaps struggling to get those administered. That was disappointing to say the least.”
Cllr Rowlands praised Betsi Cadwaladr UHB for its communication with the council during the vaccine roll-out.
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething has been approached for comment.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Our vaccination strategy sets ambitious milestones to offer all eligible adults vaccination by the autumn.
“But it is also clear the success of the strategy relies on having regular and reliable supplies of vaccines available to protect people in Wales.”
Lib Dems call for Cross Party Economic Recovery Council for Wales
Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for the creation of a Cross Party Economic Recovery Council for Wales to help Welsh businesses hit by the Covid pandemic move onto the next stage of their recovery.
The party says the council would be chaired by the economy minister of the Welsh Government and have representatives from all major parties as well as experts from businesses organisations as well as welsh academic experts.
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said: “Covid has brought many Welsh businesses to their knees, especially small businesses and those across the hospitality sector.
“The Welsh and UK Governments have helped with one off grants and the furlough scheme, but for many businesses this has just kept them afloat. Many businesses are seeking ways to rebuild and renew themselves once it is safe to do so.
“I want the Welsh Government to listen to business, and to commit itself to action, so that business and Government can work together in the difficult times we face. I understand the constraints – especially financial – under which the Welsh Government operates, and I believe this should not be a matter of party politics. It is about listening to each other and working together to ensure that the Welsh Government’s resources are targeted in the most effective way.”